"Reality Bites" Hits Sundance

by Peter Knegt
January 23, 2012 4:33 PM
7 Comments
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Yesterday evening at the Egyptian Theater in Park City, I saw the best film I've seen at Sundance 2012 so far: "Reality Bites." Screening as a "from the vaults" presentation -- with director Ben Stiller and writer Helen Childress in tow for a 40 minute Q&A afterwards -- the screening came exactly 18 years after its debut screening in that very theater.  Sure, there was little real professional reason for me to see it. But after 4 exhausting days and nights seeing movies I've mostly been underwhelmed by, it was a nice little treat.

I should probably make this clear: I first saw "Reality Bites" when I was 12 years old, and have been more or less obsessed with it ever since. I had the poster on my bedroom wall, I wore out the soundtrack CD twice, and have probably watched it more than any other film. I'll admit it's not a perfect movie, or even particularly cinematic. But it's such a wonderfully optimistic and sincere little film, with dozens of killer one-liners (mostly care of Janeane Garofalo) and perhaps the best performance Winona Ryder has ever given.

I must say that film holds up remarkably well. While there's clearly dated elements (the internet doesn't exist; cell phones are rare and large), the core story of trying to survive your twenties with your integrity and happiness in check is easily a universal one, and the way "Reality Bites" presents it is so sincere and accessible. And frankly, they don't make films like it anymore.

Oddly enough, I think the film's following is not so much from folks who were the age of the characters in the film (roughly 23 or 24) when it was released. Most of the people that seem to make up its fanbase are considerably younger than that, and saw the film initially as teenagers and are now 30ish. For me, the film struck a cord because it was what I thought being in your twenties WOULD feel like.  It was such a warm window into a potential future. That's what drew me to it over and over and over. And I know I'm not alone.

Yesterday was the first time I ever saw the film in a theater. And sitting there as someone actually OLDER than the characters was admittedly a pretty emotional experience. It tapped into serious nostaglia and coupled with Sundance-related exhaustion, I felt the film as much as I did when I first saw it 16 years ago. 

Here's full (and admittedly quite shitty, sorry) video from the Q&A afterwards:

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7 Comments

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  • Dylan | January 27, 2012 11:47 AMReply

    Sundance is being sued, Lawsuits have been filed against the institute, for stealing, fraud, corruption, see Scam Fest The Movie......www.sundancefilmfestival2012.com

  • Toby | January 25, 2012 8:43 AMReply

    Reading that almost made me cry. I only saw REALITY BITES once, dubbed on German televison, but I always imagined myself dancing in the shop of a gas station in the US to MY SHARONA, a song that - to that day- I have no idea what it's about, or even what or who "Sharona" is (I always sang Corona, thinking it was a beer). I guess it's the magic of movies that once we see a few grungy twens on screen in our teens, we want to be like them and experience what they experience and once we hit 30, we realize we didn't experience what they did. Instead our scripts wrote very different films for us that no one put on a screen but that are very magic and fun and unique nevertheless.

    Never gonna stop give it up such a dirty mind
    I always get it up for a touch of the younger kind....

  • jingmei | January 25, 2012 2:28 AMReply

    Could imagine the relaxing and nostalgia moment you had been in. ;

  • LindaO. | January 24, 2012 1:53 AMReply

    I was a PA on that movie while in film school. :) Great experience!

  • Big Bomb | January 23, 2012 4:39 PMReply

    how can you be an adult in the year 2012, and not know you need to hold the microphone closer to your mouth? the moderator make me hater ...

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