Reality Bites Turns 20 Today, Still Isn't Very Good

Generation Ecch
To begin with, I'm not referring to *that* Reality Bites, your weekly glimpse into the abyss that is (mostly) basic cable reality television. That's only 2.5 years old and just as bitingly hilarious as ever.


No, I'm talking about 1994's Reality Bites. You remember: Winona Ryder before she became Spock's mom? Ethan Hawke before he de-grunged? Janeane Garofalo? Ben Stiller? That guy from Sahara?

The movie was released on this day in 1994, and is held in high regard by many locals, probably because it's one of a very few that's recognizably set in H-Town, with Montrose, Greenway Plaza, and Tranquillity Park figuring prominently in several scenes. Unfortunately, that hometown affection has caused many to overvalue what is, at best, a mediocre film.

Before anyone accuses me of being a late hater, I saw Reality Bites in the theater. And as my date at the time (now my wife) can confirm, I really only found it intermittently enjoyable from the beginning. Reasons? Oh, I have reasons.

5. Troy Is A Fucking Asshole
Hawke's career hadn't really taken off when he took the part of Troy, the elitist college dropout whose only evidence of superior intelligence is an ability to name more episodes of Gilligan's Island than anyone else. He also "sings" when he's not demonstrating his profund grasp of situational ethics by stealing from his job. Should've stuck around to get that philosophy degree.

And yet the conclusion, in which Leilana and Troy end up together in their cozy Montrose bungalow, is presented as some sort of triumph. Ladies, are you looking for someone who: a) gets pissy jealous when his non-girlfriend dates someone else; b) slinks off the morning after you finally cave in and sleep with him; and c) only comes to his senses and acts like a human being after catastrophic life events (in this case, the death of his father)? Well then, Troy Dyer's your man.

4. The Main Characters Are the Least Interesting
This movie needed about 75 percent less Lelaina-Troy-Michael angst and about 150 percent more Vickie and Sammy. Maybe the "HIV scare" subplot was a little stale (shit, Walker, Texas Ranger beat them by seven years), but Garofalo sells it. And I will never not laugh at Sammy rehearsing coming out to his parents with her: "Oh ... Christ."

And this scene was pretty good, too:

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