Saturday, August 27, 2011

Because sometimes your friends want to get drunk and rant about a movie for you

Avid blog follower but not (currently) blog producer, Anticipated Serenity , has graciously offered to compose a guest blog. I have told her before she could do this whenever and as the theme of today is apparently watching movies (I'm watching Tangled as a followup to an episode of MST3K) and drinking while awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irene, it seemed like the right time. Cheers!

So here we are, my friends and I, bunkered down from East-Coast-Hurricanemageddon-2011, watching movies and boozing and waiting for it all to end. We’ve watched a few and then settled on Reality Bites as none of us had seen it (I know, cardinal sin of my generation apparently). And as will probably be seen as a more cardinal sin amongst my generation, I was not a fan, which pains me as I love Janeane Garafalo (who was excellent in this movie). Here’s why:

***Spoiler Alert – to those who somehow missed watching this movie like me, I will be giving away the plot and the end. You have been warned***

While this may have been groundbreaking at the time, in 2011 this is seems like a trite representation of what the “90s” mean. Some of it is to be expected. Obviously the fashion – it was made in the 90s so clearly their fashion would be unbelievably such. But also the whole message of “we’re young and we’re anti-establishment at all costs” and “nobody understands my feelings like I do” and “we are all alone on this island that is life” etc…that got tiring quickly. Am I being too harsh on these messages? Maybe. Again, at the time this may have been groundbreaking. Hell, maybe it is because of this movie, or at least in part, that these elements are now stereotypical of the 90s.

Luckily, I have better reasons for disliking this movie. The movie poses itself to be an expose of sorts about life for the young college graduates of the 90s. Almost like the older sibling of The Breakfast Club. However, unlike The Breakfast Club that actually delved into issues facing the youth they were representing and focused on more than romance, Reality Bites skimmed the surface of very pressing and important issues (AIDS, homosexuality acceptance, the job market, student loans, etc.) and instead focused on the oh-so-important love triangle between Ryder, Hawke and Stiller. The love triangle, which attempts to be really edgy adding in sex, speeches featuring a lot of SAT words and a lot of pseudo-philosophical crap when in reality (ß see what I did there? Reality check about Reality Bites? I’m so clever. Like this movie. #sarcasm) it is the classic love triangle. Girl falls for Boy 1, Boy 1 dismisses her. Girl settles for Boy 2, which makes Boy 1 jealous. Boy 1 and Boy 2 now fight over Girl and ultimately force her to choose. 9 out of 10 times Girl chooses wrong Boy. This movie is no exception. If anything it’s more insulting than one may find the traditional romcom because it pretends to be enlightened and above such trivial things when really it’s the same old story.

Hawke plays the token disenfranchised youth who can’t be bothered to actually take responsibility for his behavior and believes, probably based on a Philosophy 101 class he took while stoned, that society owes him. Why society owes him, no one knows, but it is clear society has wronged this man and must excuse all his behavior. He goes so far as to use this to justify his theft of a snickers bar and excuse his own responsibility from why he was fired (which was theft…because of the snickers bar). Ryder is valedictorian of her class who is going to conquer the world. Until she gets fired from her internship because she thinks her boss is a prick. This is, of course, her boss’s fault for not “getting” her. She then refuses to look for employment deemed “beneath” her, as again she was valedictorian. This seems to spit in the face of the enlightenment vibe they’re going for with this movie; however it is pretty accurate of the recent college description. Then enter Stiller, who is supposed to be the yuppie. I think the directors don’t actually know what a yuppie is. Stiller is clearly a young kid who got in on the ground floor of business and is trying to make it work out. He makes mistakes and is the only one in the movie to admit he makes mistakes. That doesn’t make him a yuppie, that makes him a responsible adult.

Ryder and Stiller go out on a few dates, sex a bit, and then he has to ya know…go do his job. This is also a responsible adult thing to do that is mistaken as a negative. His big mistake is when in an attempt to help Ryder, he insults her creative genius (did I mention she’s an amateur film maker/video journalist. Yea…). He dares to take her movie about her friends (nothing trite there) and edits it so that it’s actually marketable. To reiterate – for a girl that he dates a couple of times, he takes her movie, pitches it to his contacts (which he can’t possibly have a lot given his age), actually gets her a deal, and when it doesn’t work out to Ryder’s specifications, she just walks out. Because clearly this is Stiller’s fault for not “getting” her.

Hawke and Ryder’s relationship is a horse of a different color. Best of friends who seem to do nothing but fight, one can cut the sexual tension with a knife. Or so the movie would like you to think. In actually almost every encounter is of Hawke being a jerk, Ryder calling him out on being jerk, and one of the two storming out of the room in utter frustration. One of these great scenes is where Hawke deliberately manipulates Ryder’s feelings, professes his love for her, and then claims it all to be a joke literally laughing in her face. Oh, he’s a regular Prince Charming. There is one scene where they seem to be getting along, then he tries to make out with her KNOWING she’s seeing Stiller, and he has the audacity to be upset that she won’t make out with him. He runs away like a child, not even coming back to his apartment for days. Finally he does, and after the horrible mistake Stiller made (see above paragraph), Ryder and Hawke sleep together in what is really, really awkward “passion” and profession of love. The next morning, Hawke runs out on her. This is my surprised face  -.- ßNote not actually surprised.

And then – for the climax! – Hawke sings a beautiful song at a venue that is, I shit you not, called “The Joint” and Ryder feels so moved that she’s all conflict-y about her anger towards him for running out on her. Just then Stiller runs in, apologizes for not getting Ryder, and attempts to fix it for her by presenting her with plane tickets he bought to New York so they could pitch to the TV/movie execs together so Ryder can have creative control. Wow an apology AND a logical solution?! What a…jerk? Ryder in a conflict, pulls Hawke aside and confronts him about leaving. He then pulls the “I’m a wild stallion, you can’t control me, and that scares you. But you’re the only woman I can ever love.” To Ryder’s credit she yells at him, but ALSO dismisses Stiller so she can go home and brood over what a jerk Hawke is. At the end of the day she’s left with 2 choices: 1) dark, broody, borderline violent and drug addicted, emotionally unavailable jerkwad who constantly leaves you or 2) the “yuppie” who actually has a work ethic, respects you, admits to his mistakes, and provides actual solutions to your problems. No brainer right ladies? Hello Jerkwad!

So really? REALLY?! After all this, she chooses the moron? She chooses the guy who says shit like “we all die alone eventually” and “my dad gave me a shell and said all of life answers are in this shell. That’s when I realized life is meaningless.” This dude was emo before emo was cool (oh wait, it was never cool. This dude was emo before emo was a thing). Oh and did I mention when the two boys faux fight over her? Epic quotes like “you can’t give her what she needs” “I know what she needs more than you do” – oh what an enlightened movie. Know who knows what she needs? The lady. Maybe ask her opinion? Just saying.

So at the end of the day this movie fails at being edgy as it was nothing but cliché. This movie fails at being progressive/enlightened as it was anything but. And this movie fails at being an actual romcom as there is no real happy ending, there is no character development, there is no actual romance, and other than Garafalo and Zahn (Steve Zahn is in this, also a great job by him. Go supporting actors go!), there is almost no comedy. So it basically fails at everything.

Why is this the movie of my generation?


  1. Idiot teenage girls were too busy oggling Hawke to question the stupidity of movie.

    At least the movie of our generation won't be Twilight...

  2. I'm glad I now have no need to waste two hours and watch the movie :)