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Reality Bites

I re-watched Reality Bites today, and I'd forgotten how much I love it. I first saw it when it came out in the theaters in 1994, when I was 24 and only a couple years older than the main characters. (I remember I first saw it with Katherine when we were still housemates in our first apartment together on Claremont Avenue near the freeway on-ramp. We saw it at the now-closed Oaks Theater on Solano.)

I've seen it many times since then, and I used to own it on VHS, and I used to own the soundtrack on cassette, and I used to listen to it often on my yellow Walkman when I walked to work.

So watching the movie makes me nostalgic for the movie and its music, but also for my own life at the time that I saw it, which wasn't entirely different from the world inside the movie. Katherine and I were both more mature and responsible than these kids, but -- like I said -- we were maybe 3 or 4 years older than they.

Best scenes/lines in the movie:

1. The four main characters sitting on a rooftop as the sun sets on the evening of their college graduation ceremonies, singing "Conjunction Junction" in semi-unison

2. After extremely promiscuous Friend A has poured her heart out at length about her fears that she may be HIV positive and may be dying of AIDS, saying that she's like a character on "some crappy show like 'Melrose Place'" who moves into the building and teaches everyone that it's okay to be friends with the HIV/AIDS chick, it's okay to touch her, blah blah blah, and then she dies, blah blah blah ... after Friend A quiets, Friend B comforts her, tells her everything is going to be okay, etc., and then, after a long silence, she stares soulfully into Friend A's eyes and says seriously, "And 'Melrose Place' is a really good show."

3. The dialogue-free sequence when our star-crossed (primarily star-crossed by the fact that the guy is seriously emotionally messed up) lovers are apart, with gorgeously directed camera shots of them apparently-simultaneously staring off into space in clubs, hospitals, airports, beds ... slowly raising cigarettes to their mouths and lowering them again ... U2's "All I Want Is You" achingly playing in the background. After seeing this movie several times, this plot-less (and yet emotionally loaded) sequence is the bit I've always remembered most vividly.

4. Extremely promiscuous Friend A on her way to get an HIV test, chirping, "The free clinic AIDS test: the rite of passage for our generation. We're so lucky! Come on!" I think this makes me chuckle mostly because it really was a kind of rite of passage for us twenty-somethings during that period. Free (and often anonymous) testing was suddenly widely available, and young people were taking the risk and the responsibility seriously, and it was suddenly just something that everybody did at some point. I particularly like the "We're so lucky!"

5. When Friend A is asked her social security number, she answers immediately, and then muses, "It's the only thing I really learned in college."

6. Friend A and Friend B driving down the street, animatedly singing along with Squeeze's excellent song "Tempted"

7. The gas station convenience store scene in which Friend A points out that "Evian" is "naive" spelled backwards, and then gets everyone (except Greasy-Haired Slacker Guy, who's too cool for such silliness) leaping around, dancing to "My Sharona" in the middle of the junk food aisles

Some random thoughts:

1. In looking at my favorite scenes and quotes from the movie, I notice that most of them involve Friend A, who was played by Janeane Garofalo. No wonder I became a bit of a fan around that time.

2. On streaming, as opposed to VHS, it is much easier to fast-forward through almost every scene featuring Ben Stiller.

3. Ethan Hawke is a really weird kisser, or at least he was in 1994. It was distracting to watch.

4. Netflix still has some movies that are only available (on streaming, anyway) in "full screen" format. I found this disturbing after only a few seconds and phoned them to ask if it was a streaming issue that I could control with some kind of setting or if it was a "this is the only form of this movie we have license to stream" issue. It turns out that they started out with this "only full screen" problem, once upon a time, but now they're trying to replace all those "full screen" movies with letterboxed versions, so the woman on the phone was all happy that I'd taken the time to phone them, because it alerts them to a movie they need to change over. Also, she kept raving about how much she loves Reality Bites, and how she'd forgotten all about this movie, and now she's going to have to watch it when she gets home after work. It was pretty funny.

5. Must. Buy. Reality Bites. On DVD!



Nov. 19th, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
I love this movie. I was kind of shocked, seeing it again recently for the first time in ages, how well it holds up—I'd kind of remembered it as the movie that wanted to be Singles but couldn't, but it surpassed that by a long shot. And actually, I really like the kissing in this movie, which is in the rare group of films in which the kisses look like they genuinely want each other.

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