The 90′s looked so cool, and kind of annoying.
A small circle of friends (Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn) suffering from post-collegiate blues must confront the hard truth about life, love and the pursuit of gainful employment. As they struggle to map out survival guides for the future, the Gen-X quartet soon begins to realize that reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
This along with Singles, has to be those early 90′s, Generation-X defining films that probably seemed all hip and cool then, now, not so much.
First-time writer/director Ben Stiller, maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe not, does a good job of combining good elements of comedy, romance, and a dash of 90′s reality. There’s a lot of pop-culture references that some people like myself didn’t quite get, and others you will get and think are kind of funny. Underneath, all of that humor though, there’s actually a sweet little romance that works well here, especially with the tone and everything, since it’s both at times dark, and light. There’s also a lot of insight about the constant struggles there were to actually get a job, and do something with your life after your schoolio days are over.
However, the insight starts to lose it’s flavor, and kind of actually becomes a little annoying, probably because it all seems so dated. These chumps are so used to fighting the system, and saying no to the common man, that they literally don’t do anything with their lives and just sit around and mope a lot about how people have dreams and ambitions, while their doing the same things. I liked some of the discussions about living in the world of AIDS, and the Clinton era, but after awhile those witty discussions start to die down into some annoying territory.
There are also many moments where I felt like this film was almost trying way too hard to be different and cool, just for the sake of being different and cool. I know I have said the word, “cool” a lot during this review, but that’s only because I feel like Stiller was just there behind the camera trying to do some cool things with this film because it’s the 90′s. Maybe it’s dated because that’s the point because it’s a snapshot of a generation and an age. However, I still wish it didn’t try so hard to be so damn cool.
Winona Ryder is a natural in this role as the quarter-life crises infected, Lelaina, who just wants something to do with her life and get pass all of these problems she faces. Ryder is good in this role, and it’s easy to follow her character on a day-to-day basis, because she has that cuteness and charm, but also that harsh reality of someone stuck in a jobless life. Ben Stiller does a good job as Michael, the yuppie that comes into Lelaina’s life, and does that nerdy and nervous awkward shtick that he has in a way perfected, and it works well with his character here. Steve Zahn and Janeane Garofalo are also here and do some nice jobs bringing more humor to the film. My favorite out of this whole cast was Ethan Hawke as Troy, the definitive 90′s slacker. Filled with so many quotes, one-liners, and insightful sayings, Hawke perfectly captures the mind sight and speech of what it was like to live in this generation when all you had to work with were your words. He is at times a dick, and at others, a total charmer, and Hawke plays him so well that he gives off a great early performance that shows what talent he would have for later on in his career.
Consensus: Though it’s insight start’s to get annoying, and may seem just like random conversations after awhile, Reality Bites has a sweet, romantic comedy-like tone, with good performances and a nice snapshot of Generation-X.
Seattle Grunge may not be the most romantic music out there, but for these people, it’s the closest thing their going to get to Marvin Gaye.
A group of twenty-something friends (Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda, and Campbell Scot), most of whom live in the same apartment complex, search for love and success in grunge-era Seattle.
Writer/Director Cameron Crowe is a very smart person. His two films Jerry Maguire, and Say Anything.., are perfect examples of films that blend smart comedy, with realistic romance. With this one, he does an OK job to say the least.
The one thing Crowe does with this film is that he shows these real people talking about real stuff, and expressing their real feelings. You get a real sense of how love is, and sometimes not supposed to be. Crowe plays out some little director tricks to give us the feeling of how it feels to be in love, and how we all react to when we are in love. There’s also a lot of Generation X nostalgia that will tell you how these people feel about the future, and what they expect from it.
Although, I think Crowe didn’t know what to do when it came to comedy. Yeah, there’s a little laugh here and there, but it’s all too random. There are just moments where something weird happens, and yeah, it turns out funny, but it’s so useless.
Also, the soundtrack is pretty rockin’, with grunge greats like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains, but the music never plays a huge part in this film which kind of bums me out. I wanted to hear more insight on how this dirty, and dark music, made these people feel, and how they connected to it.
The performances from the cast we’re very good. Bridget Fonda is good, as this cute, likable girl that falls for the heavy grunge rocker, Cliff, played by the always amusing Matt Dillon. He’s as usual funny, but he’s also kind of a dick, but its not off-putting, he knows that he is. Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick do the best jobs together in this film. They are both aimlessly in love, but they don’t know how to approach it, nor do they know how to express, cause they have recently been hurt. It’s great to see these two on-screen together, and it all feels so real. We also get great cameos from Paul Giamatti, Jeremy Piven, Bill Pullman, and the most random one yet, Tim Burton. Yeah, the director dude is in this, and I have no idea why.
The only problem with a lot of these characters is that it never gets fully in-depth to who these people really are. Yeah, we get to hear about their past love-life, but we walk into their lives with an open-mind, but get nothing in return. We guess their all good, and nice people, they just all need love. I guess…..
Consensus: Aimless, and not enough depth, stops Singles from being a great romantic comedy, but it has good performances, and a very smart script that shows real people, talking about real feelings.