In my newest post about the movies of Generation-X, I chose to write a little bit about one of the funnies comedies of the 1990s, Clerks.
The movie is kinda brilliant.
One of the problems with many films made about young people in the ‘90s is that screenwriters tried so hard to make their characters hip. Think about Reality Bites, a movie that sank under the weight of forced injection of pop culture references into every scene and the characters’ boring, drawn-out examinations of their lives.
And then consider Clerks, a welcome reaction to phony movies like Reality Bites. With its biting dialogue and true-to-life feel, you might actually want to spend a few hours discussing girls and Star Wars trivia with Clerks’ characters.
Kevin Smith’s first picture, shot in black-and-white on a $28,000 budget, looks at Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), two slackers who work in adjoining retail stores in Jersey. Dante mans the register in a QuikStop market, while Randall runs a failing video store right next door. Stuck in dead-end jobs, the college dropouts spend their days discussing Return of the Jedi, stupid customers and fetish pornography with the same fervor as PhD candidates discussing their research.
Yeah, okay, I’m definitely a few years beyond the Generation-X cutoff, but it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy movies about our favorite late-’80s and ’90s outcasts, slackers and burnouts.
Right now, I’m writing a series of reviews of Gen-X movies, regardless of whether they’re good or not. And I’m playing the professor and assigning letter grades to each movie…something I almost never do.
To kick things off, I watched Reality Bites, a movie that’s supposedly all about Generation-X, a week ago. I sort of remember giving it a spin a few years back and, at the time, I thought it was pretty damn funny and perceptive.
My current (and less favorable) assessment:
Reality Bites (1994)
Reality Bites, Ben Stiller’s directorial debut, is an unworthy Gen-X staple, a mostly cliché story of four Houston college grads who wander out of graduation into dead-end jobs. While its opening third is perceptive and funny, it ultimately becomes just another formulaic study of young adults trying to find themselves and fall in love in a mean corporate world.
The pic stars Winona Ryder as Lelaina, valedictorian of her college class, who, armed at all times with a video camera, obsessively films all her friends being “spontaneous.” They include the sharp-tongued slacker musician Troy (Ethan Hawke), the funny and sensitive Vicki (Jeneane Garofalo) and the shy Sammy (Steve Zahn).