Reality Bites [1994]

Ben Stiller's directorial debut was this sporadically successful twentysomething comedy that tries too hard to codify the generational experience of its young adult characters. Winona Ryder plays a still-unformed woman struggling with career and relationship issues, Janeane Garofalo portrays her best friend, and Ethan Hawke and Stiller play the two lovers pursuing her. The story is as also about generation-X confusion over how to get by in a hand-me-down world with not much to get excited about, a world filled with a pop culture currency of bad music and poetry slams. The film's chief strength is its appealing cast, which is bolstered by appearances from David Spade, Renee Zellweger, Kevin Pollak, Jeanne Triplehorn, and Stiller's mother, Anne Meara. --Tom Keogh

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