I can't believe this film was directed by Ben Stiller. Ben Stiller! The man who gave us Zoolander also delivered the hottest slice of '90s post university counter-culture, generation Y babes, these four grunge superstars?
What a guy.
I love this film even more now that it seems nostalgic and sweetly dated. The outrage of Ryder's Lelaina as her beautiful VHS documentary is exploited by the evil IN YOUR FACE TV channel (*cough* MTV *cough*) and turned into a disposable pithy commentary on slacker 20 somethings who like pizza. Can you imagine?! This was a world that was only just starting to experience the normal-people-becoming-famous-for-being-on-TV phenomenon we're now so familiar with. The Real World was only two years old and OJ Simpson was still happily married to Nicole Brown - so we'd never even heard Robert Kardashian, let alone his daughters. In 1994 when Reality Bites premiered at Sundance I'm sure it felt like a breezy breath of fresh (if slightly incense-infused) air.
Watching now it appears to have been the birth place for many character types - Ethan Hawke (who hadn't really done much at this point other than Dead Poet's Society) paved the way for all the emotionally troubled heartbreakers with longish hair and piercing eyes we would fall in love with over the next 20 years - many of whom he himself played. And of course he's in a grungey rock band where he plays acoustic guitar and sings. Of course. He was just Jordan Catalano ten years on.
And Ryder's Lelaina could definitely be best friends with Girls' Hannah Horvath, both of them fumbling around, trying to prove their creative credentials - "I'm the voice of a generation". And they would have lived happily in a Brooklyn apartment with Janeane Garofalo's Vickie, Hannah and Vickie swapping vintage dresses and coloured tights and moaning about their crappy day jobs - Vickie is a manager at Gap. They would all hang out together and dance like this:
Speaking of those vintage dresses... The style in this film is amazing, which is of course why we're here. I think Vickie might just be a wardrobe genius.
Apparently Winona Ryder took this part mainly because it would mean she could wear her own jeans. She's normcore bliss in this film, heavenly casual. And she loves her shirts/blazer/pleated trouser ensembles.
In fact at one point she wears a WHITE DRESS OMG and everyone freaks out. Troy (Hawke) even says, "Why are you dressed like that? Where are your normal clothes?...You look like a doily"
I mean she does look completely, RADICALLY out there. Right??
Woah chill out, you crazy lady!
I think my favourite style of Lelaina's is when she wears old ripped jeans, a worn out T-shirt, and a bit of red lipstick. So perfect. I also like that she always wears a watch. She's practical.
THIS OUTFIT BELOW <3
I also love her in this shirt. I wanted one of these so badly when this film came out.
And she's a huge fan of Big Gulps. She actually has a monolgue about them.
It's a bit like how Veronica Sawyer in Heathers is really into Slurpees and Slushies. Maybe Winona approaches characters via their drink choices?
I like a lot of things about Vickie, I like how she decorates her bedroom. It's just like a teen bedroom in that every wall and surface is covered in identity defining memoribilia, but all the objets are the kind of ironically kitsch things only a 22 year old would have.
She even has a padlocked pastel-hued diary, which she uses to note down the names of the men she has slept with.
Excellent clown bookmark.
Despite working at Gap which is all denim and khaki simplicity, Vickie has a wide array of kooky polyester dresses, which look great with her Bettie Page hair and big sunglasses.
That collar above is so great.
Yes, she is wearing red lacy tights.
As you can see clearly below she's really good at wearing coloured tights (with an ankle chain underneath). And these shoes are so excellent.
I think my favourite thing about Vickie is how sassy she is, which is of course a lot like Janeane in real life - she actually got fired from Reality Bites in rehearsals because her attitude annoyed Ben Stiller.
I love her in her Gap clothes.
(Is it just me or does the girl with the skirt in the background of this gif look a lot like Blake Lively?)
TROYTroy. What a name. What a guy. Well, kinda. He's got that whole mysterious me-against-the-world thing happening, and he's in a band and sings about life being hard and stuff, and he hates big corporations (like Coca-Cola - although I think this is actually the film-makers clever way of getting product placement into the film). He's also, of course, a "commitment-phobe". Our first proper introduction to him is when he leaves a woman's house - Renee Zellweger! - and drops the piece of paper with her number on the ground.
I feel like "not wanting a relationship" was a big character trait for men in the '90s.
"What's this guy like?"
"Oh, well he doesn't want a girlfriend"
"OK cool, you don't need to say anything else about him then".
Troy dresses in the (now classic) '90s Slacker uniform. Shirts. Jeans. White T-Shirts.
He is the male counterpart to Vickie, and dishes out equally pithy lines. Although his are more instructional - slacker how-to's.
When I was in my early twenties I definitely would have swooned over Troy, but now it just seems a bit like he's trying really, really hard to look like he's not trying. And sometimes it's just nice when people you're attracted to are nice and emotionally stable and treat you well. You know? He doesn't even dance to 'My Sharona' at the 7/11 with his friends for goodness sake.
That said, it is really adorable at the end of the film when he turns up to fight for Lelaina and he's wearing the WORST SUIT EVER.
Aww. He's trying.
Stiller plays Michael, the yuppie sellout Lelaina falls for. He is all big carphones and hair product. He likes suits. His off duty look is still very ON duty. He has a filofax and a convertible.
Nice painting of a spaceship on the wall, which I think you probably got in the 'Boys Bedroom' section of Ikea.
Michael was dismayed by the way in which these slackers lived.
"Why don't you want me? I can wear shirts with the top button undone too".
I feel bad for Michael, he was a good guy, he just wasn't cool enough to get all the super hip references Lelaina and her friends were making.
By the way, Ben Stiller's mother is in this film.
You might know her as Steve's mom in Sex And The City.
I love Steve Zahn and he's great as Sammy, the quiet friend they all take for granted. He doesn't get nearly enough screen time but when we do see him he's always in perfect '90s mainstream "I'm just trying to fit in here" outfits.
I love his glasses.
So there you go, Reality Bites. I'll leave you with this final piece of seriously brilliant wisdom from Lelaina.