1. Archive

A fleeting definition of reality

Reality Bites

Define irony. What's 85 plus 45? How do you find your own identity without any role models or heroes? Ben Stiller's new movie Reality Bites raises (and occasionally answers) these and other important questions.

Three strong leads help raise this chronicle of the presently emerging culture above its potential as a Some Kind of Wonderful rip-off. Winona Ryder plays Lelaina Pierce, an aspiring filmmaker who apparently doesn't believe in bras. Troy (Ethan Hawke) is a chainsmoking philosopher/Bohemian who couldn't exist without an audience for his rhetoric. While he may be the victim of a misnomer ("Troy" conjures up images of muscles and big, white teeth), Hawke's portrayal of a sardonic young man with potential as a welfare candidate is a far cry from his Dead Poets Society days and it proves that he has range as an actor. Lelaina and Troy, both of whom happen to have the same haircut (Troy is the one with the facial hair), enjoy a platonic relationship until Michael Grates (Ben Stiller) makes Troy realize just what he's missing.

Reality Bites confronts many of the major issues of the day. Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) uses her college diploma to manage the Gap _ the finest in androgynous clothing _ and goes to the free clinic for an AIDS test, the "rite of passage for our generation." Equally contemporary is Sammy, a gay character who decides to reveal his sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the audience is never informed of the repercussions of this act and, while this issue was handled well, the character warranted attention and should have been more thoroughly explored.

Reality Bites is laced with complementary clips of every quality late '70s sitcom and infomercials galore. In addition, this film contains a nice smattering of literary allusions, including a little Sylvia Plath and some subtle Hamlet. It is also interesting to note that while the Texan setting is mentioned several times, only one character is graced with a Southern twang. Perhaps Stiller felt that those with Southern accents couldn't handle counterculture.

Meredith Weisberg

Gaither High School