Reality Bites is all about navigating life from the cynical perspective of Generation X. Writer Helen Childress based it on her own personal life experiences and friends. Although the title isn’t supposed to mean “life sucks,” it does capture all the problems that they were facing at the time. Reality Bites is the 90’s equivalent of St. Elmo’s Fire with four twenty-something friends and roommates dealing with life after college. There’s an awesome soundtrack that includes grunge music, reality TV style filmmaking, and fear of the AIDS epidemic.
Reality Bites wasn’t an immediate success, but it did become a cult favorite that launched many careers. Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke increased their appeal while Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn had their first major film roles. Lelaina is an aspiring filmmaker who videotapes her friends being themselves. She has a bickering love/hate relationship with her philosophical slacker friend Troy who has a grunge band. Their promiscuous friend Vickie is worried she has AIDS and their celibate friend Sammy comes out as gay.
Several celebrities make appearances since this was the first movie directed by Ben Stiller. He also plays Lelaina’s older yuppie love interest Michael who comes between her and Troy. I can’t personally relate to Generation X or the constant smoking, but being unable to find a job, trying to please your parents, and feeling like your life isn’t progressing like everyone else is pretty universal. Reality Bites has a great understanding of how young adults think.