Broke-Ass Nostalgia: Reality Bites
Sometimes I avoid watching movies I loved when I was younger in fear that I will realize that they are actually terrible (cough Labyrinth cough). Before Hollywood was obsessed with rebooting, sequels and movies based on stupid childhood toys, studios would take a chance on movies targeted at specific audiences, like the hip, twenty-something Generation X. Let’s take a look at some of the oldies and (hopefully still) goodies.
I’ll bet that, like me, you haven’t watched Reality Bites in a really, really, long time. I was in high school when this one came out, and it made me so excited to be in my twenties. It made me thing being in your twenties was all about living with all your friends, getting cute, short, shaggy haircuts, hanging out at diners, and hating your job (but in a way that was endearing). So what if you didn’t have money, it was about sitting around with your friends smoking weed and talking about the meaning of life and complaining that the older generation just didn’t understand you?- because, obviously, you were the first generation to feel that way.
How does it hold up?
Surprising well. Although, the invention of cell phones and email would solve many of the main plot conflicts within seconds.
Lelaina and her friends are broke, directionless, and struggling to make it and find themselves. Meanwhile, being broke doesn’t stop them from having a total blast. Lelaina struggles between the opportunity to date Michael, a guy that may make her feel more secure financially (“Did he dazzle you with his extensive knowledge of mineral water, or was it his in-depth analysis of, uh, uh, Marky Mark that finally reeled you in?”) or the hot, sardonic and broke Troy (“He’s weird, he’s strange, he’s sloppy, he’s a total nightmare for women… I can’t believe I haven’t slept with him yet.”). Spoiler alert- she chooses Troy and they lived happily ever after in slacker bliss, although neither of them are employed and are not sure where their lives are going. Who cares? We were all rooting for them anyway.
With the recent epic fail of the economy, their job woes seem very familiar. Lelaina was in a creative job (working for a television program) but didn’t find any passion in it, and finds herself virtually unemployable. Her principles shun materialism and prestige, yet she refuses to take an hourly job. Vicki, on the other hand, is working at the Gap and has resigned herself to being committed to knowing all the types of Gap shirts: “French-cut,v-necked, ribbed, what have you. Dude, I’m in trouble!”
Troy, despite being brilliant, refuses to take any mainstream job or do what is expected of his generation:
There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a… a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know… a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter become a cackle… and I, I sit back and I smoke my Camel Straights and I ride my own melt.
My fifteen-year old self was in LOVE with Troy, however, my adult self sees him for what he just may be: a pretentious dick (as others would agree).
Fun fact: The writer, Helen Childress, has not done anything else in film since this movie. Which is a darn shame, because the sharp dialogue and notable quotes could give Aaron Sorkin a run for his money. Who knows? Maybe she grew up, got a corporate job, just like the characters feared they would have to.
What’s the takeaway?
Despite being oh-so-mid-nineties, the message is timeless. We don’t need our psychic friend to realize that love, friendships are being happy are most important. Team Broke-Ass certainly follows that creed, but, unfortunately, as we know, we still need to somehow get ourselves- food, shelter, happy hours. Oh, and that “Melrose Place is a really good show.”