Old Lady Movie NightOld Lady Movie Night: "Reality Bites"Anne T. Donahue

HELLO, MY FRIENDS. Also, other people! EVERYONE! Hi. We are into glorious week THREE of Old Lady Movie Night for the year 2013, and I am finally – FINALLY – watching a movie that defined my . . . early 20s.

Yes, it’s true. I didn’t watch Reality Bites in its entire until I was 23, but I’d seen parts! I’d quoted it, I’d danced to “My Sharona,” I knew the references. But I never actually watched the whole thing. So I did, and then, because of where I was in life, I was all, “OH MY GOD THIS IS ME.”

Well, it wasn’t. I have never been as hip as any of these people, but we will cover ALL OF THAT in the next 25 points (and beyond!) (no, not really — but maybe? another time? why am I still using this bracket?) Just, trust that we have covered as many topics as humanly possible over the next 90-or-so minutes, minus Steve Zahn’s wardrobe, because there is no way I can do justice to any of his shirts through the magic of typing here.

Reality Bites, everyone! Big Gulps! Vests! Sunglasses! The Gap! ONWARDS, ALL OF US. TODAY AND FOREVER.

1. Remember how old we thought everyone was here?

LOLOLOLOLOLOL heard around the world. And now? NOW? Okay, fine. Some of you might still think, “Anne. 23 IS old.” And sure. Alright. BUT you may only think that if you are under the age of 20. The rest of us? Or better still: those of us who are over 25? NOT OLD. THEY ARE NOT OLD. 23 IS NOT OLD. You’re not supposed to have it figured out when you’re 23! You’re not even supposed to have it figured out when you’re 53! “Figuring it out” = a work in progress. Does anyone want to join me in hopping in a time machine and telling early 20-something year-old Anne (and whoever else) that, so she could avoid the anxiety of being 23 and thinking everything each of these characters is thinking at some point over the next 90 minutes? Better yet, I shall remind you: 23 is not old.

2. Okay  but I feel actually old during the rooftop scene

NO, not because they’re talking about not being sure what to do next and being ultra hip (THEY ARE ALL SO COOL), but because they are on the top of a building and Ethan Hawke just got dangerously close to the ledge to throw the graduation tassel over and I legitimately got vertigo. Like, I am dizzy thinking about it. I want to say, “Stop it! Get down!” But I won’t, because this movie was made when I was nine. But that being said, this is how I know I’m an adult. Also, because my Friday night plans are “Let’s go to a NICE restaurant and drink our wine SLOWLY.”

3. Reality check (GET IT?): I also know I’m old because I don’t really like these characters anymore

RIGHT? I mean, I love the actors. DUH. Winona, Janeane, Steve, Ethan . . . they rule, and are in basically all the movies I love. This isn’t about them. It is about the characters, though. Because first, I want them to get down from the building, and then also I want them to stop smoking. After that, I want to be like, “Okay, but guys — life is hard, but it’s not that bad. You can still grow up and have fun, and Winona, Ethan Hawke is bad news. Don’t date him.” And also, “WE GET IT. YOU GUYS ARE HIP.” Because they are, right? Or maybe I just wouldn’t like Winona and Ethan’s character. SO SCRATCH THAT. Steve and Janeane and I would get along great, but there’d be some serious tension between Winona, Ethan, and I, mostly because Ethan complains a lot and doesn’t seem to have a job . . . ?

4. Winona’s wardrobe is better than all of ours

Which is simply a fact. Also, I will not be calling characters by their actual names because frankly, that is my choice. I also chose to dress like Winona from this movie for about 16 months between 2010-2011, and while I can confirm that the clothes looked absolutely terrible on me (I literally can’t tell you how bad it was because it was so bad, but I will tell you to never make that decision if you’re Anne Theresa Michaela Donahue — everyone keep that in mind), I will still say that Reality Bites still makes me want to crawl into the Netflix and steal Winona’s wardrobe. Right?

5. Remember how she turns down the BMW, though?

LISTEN. I get it. I GET THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND IT. But imagine your parents were like, “Hey! Here’s a car!” and you were like “UM. NO.” Exactly. You cannot imagine that because it is insane. If she REALLY wanted to make a statement, maybe a) make sure you’re contributing to the household income in some way, then. OR b) she’s got a hang-up about car companies, why not realize that millions of people work in the automotive industry (thus it’s important), and since the car already exists, and is old, why not use it? And c) WHY NOT CARPOOL YOUR FRIENDS AROUND OR SOMETHING TO SAVE ON CARBON EMISSIONS. I don’t know. All I’m saying is that I would take the car and be thankful.

6. CONFIRMED, though: your 20s really are kind of “ugh”

It’s true. I can say “BE REASONABLE, WINONA AND ETHAN” (I am not 84 I promise), but I can confirm, being 27, that your 20s are just like a really steep uphill climb with sheep getting thrown at you in the process. (The sheep are fine, no one gets hurt.) And it’s fun! There are fun times! It’s not like high school! BUT you are also poor, and figuring it out, and making really bad decisions about important things, and you finally have to hit a wall and say, “Oh man. That was disastrous.” NOW, I will say that age is usually about 25 and 26. And by 27, 28 you’re able to just accept that things happen and you take them as they come. But before that? It’s like Reality Bites when you see Winona using toilet paper for coffee filters. Because I did that once, only it was paper towel.

7. Coach from Coach kind of has a point, though?

I hate to be the bearer of logical news, but remember how Winona doesn’t give Coach his cup of coffee for his opening segment? Yes? Of course? Because we all know this movie by heart? HE HAD A REASON TO BE MAD ABOUT IT. It’s like, a part of the show! Also, it’s her job! And he’s right — he COULD get an intern to do her job for free. What’s her deal? I feel like we’re going back to The Devil Wears Prada. “So quit!” I mean, I get that you don’t like morning television, W, but you gotsta pay the bills. Also, this gig will probably help you get a really great job?

8. And now I want to go to the Gap

This post is by no way an endorsement of a particular company. But the REALITY (!!!) (I AM SO FUNNY!) is that Janeane works there. And in the 90s I truly thought no other store IN THE WORLD was as amazing. Like, seriously, I begged my aunt for a Gap hoodie, and I got one, and it was the most glorious day. I haven’t had that feeling about a store in years — until I watch Reality Bites and see the Gap from the ’90s! ALL THE DENIM! ALL OF IT! I mean, where were YOU when you bought your first short-sleeved turtleneck? (I’m not even exaggerating — I was 11, and it was for my birthday, in 1996, near where I live.)

9. This is true friendship

It is. Because if you haven’t driven around with your best friend while singing to the radio at some point in your life, you haven’t LIVED.

10. CAR PHONES

EXISTED! They were a thing! And not only were they a thing, Ben Stiller has one IN HIS CAR! While he is HOLDING A PAPER MAP! I don’t want to get super 2013 up in here, but REMEMBER, YOU GUYS? HOW ARCHAIC WE ONCE WERE? Truthfully, though. I remember, because I was there (like, in 1994 — not on the set of this movie), and I remember friends even having car phones in 2001. CAR PHONES. Not cell phones. What a world.

11. But who just throws a cigarette into somebody’s car?!

WHO?! WINONA, WHY!? And then she causes an accident and laughs at Ben Stiller? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO HIM, WINONA? And why is she touching all the items on Ben Stiller’s desk? And breaking Dr. Zaus? And being so dismissive? OKAY BUT WAIT IT’S OKAY THEY ARE GOING TO GO OUT ON A DATE. #CAPS

12. “Welcome to the maxi pad.”

The single greatest line of dialogue in movies ever written. Straight up, neat, no ice. All of it.

13. OF COURSE Ethan Hawke is in a band

My friend Nicole and I have a phrase: “WE GET IT.” Also, “OF COURSE” when it comes to obvious things that exist, like Ethan Hawke being in a band. But not a great band, just a band. Enough of a band for girls of the town to say, “He’s in a band!” OH BOY. Listen. We’ve all been there. I’ve been there, absolutely, and I’m betting that unless you were born a very wise human being that should be the queen of us all. NOW, there are a lot of musicians who are great at playing, writing, and being terrific individuals and we are lucky to know them and their music. BUT then there are the Ethan Hawkes: the guys who are in bands seemingly solely to pick up women, and who aren’t interested in the real work it takes to be in a successful band. And to them I say ADIEU, dear sirs. For you are but a stop on the long highway of life. (I’m not quite sure what that meant. BUT . . . there it is.)

14. Big Gulps!

So first and foremost, I love Ben Stiller’s character more than words. Second, the first year my friend Judith and I became friends, we were at university. And on the first day of spring — well, it was March, but it was nice out — we, keeners supreme, skipped class (just one class) (it was the only year I really tried hard in school), got Big Gulps and I went thrift shopping for the VERY FIRST TIME. So, whenever I see Reality Bites I think of Big Gulps and that beautiful day, and also how I love the Reality Bites soundtrack SO MUCH. This paragraph had a lot going on, in retrospect. But we don’t have time to dwell on that, because . . .

15. ETHAN HAWKE IS THE WORST

Not the man, just the character! What is his problem, for real?! Why does he hate everything? Why is he so mean to Winona? See, Winona’s character, she’s just YOUNG. She’s just learning still! I LOVE WINONA’S CHARACTER! But Ethan Hawke is legitimately mean! And yes, he is undergoing a serious personal tragedy because his dad’s sick, but he’s so disrespectful! You know that concept that guys who tease you and are mean to you like you? NO! Not cool! That teaches us that we’re supposed to put up with that kind of stuff. And I remember seeing this movie for the first time and thinking Ben Stiller’s character was terrible and Ethan Hawke’s character was amazing, but it’s absolutely the other way around. Ethan Hawke needs to get thee to a therapist immediately (why do you hate women, Ethan Hawke’s character?) and Ben Stiller’s character needs to be praised for being a really cool guy. There. I SAID IT.

16. Real talk: how brave of it was this movie to address HIV and AIDS tests?

I mean, really. This was at a time when there were SO many misconceptions about AIDS and HIV, and here we have Janeane’s character getting tested and talking honestly about it. I will say nothing more, but #YGG beyond all reason.

17. “Oh, how stupid of me to try and drag you down to my level?”

RIGHT?! WHAT THE HELL, WINONA. Imagine you offered your friend a job, and that friend was like “I’m too good for that, sorry.” And you WORKED THERE? Actually, that has happened to me more than once. And I can promise you that each time, it’s like . . . UM, EXCUSE ME? But I don’t actually say that, I actually get shocked, say nothing, then stare blankly. Next time though, I will absolutely just recite this line or send a link to Janeane saying that line because nobody can say it better.

18. YOU, ME, AND FIVE BUCKS

AHHHH QUOTES THAT WE ALL LIKE TO SAY. And by “we” I mean “me” that I have absolutely said it in times of not having any money and needing to literally use gas stations as snack bars. And it’s actually usually said TO the snacks I am currently eating. And it’s not five bucks, it’s about three dollars and change because I bought the snack. Basically, I am nothing like either Winona or Ethan during this scene, and it’s not like this scene, and I have never been a part of this scene, ever what am I saying.

19. But why WOULDN’T she just get a job at the Gap?

Let’s return to this. Now, Winona is on a job quest, and she’s hanging with David Spade at a hotdog place, and she could easily just work at the Gap? You know, where the job is?! I don’t understand. Like, I am literally asking for help in understanding here. All she has to do is go back to Janeane and say, “Friend, I am so sorry. I was being a jerk, and I really need a job, and I’m so sorry I devalued yours.” There. Done. Crisis averted. I SOLVED THE CONFLICT. One of them. Wait, two: “No, Ethan Hawke. We are NOT going to hook up.” (Seriously, I am the problem solver of Reality Bites. WHAT UP.)

20. Then HECK YES, Ben Stiller calls Ethan Hawke out

“Have I stepped over the line of . . . . something . . . coolness?” WHATEVER. I don’t know. But amazing! He says EVERYTHING that we have been thinking this entire movie, and I just want to call Ben Stiller up right now and say, “Thank you. You were right, in 1994, when you recited that dialogue to that fictional character.” WHATTA MAN. Also, ETHAN HAWKE WHAT IS YOUR GLITCH FOR REAL. Does everyone remember watching this movie once and thinking, “OH I LOVE YOU, ETHAN. HOOK UP WITH WINONA.” And we said it in caps, and we were out of our minds. But speaking of our of our minds . . .

21. Did she really need to get so mad at Ben Stiller?

NOW, I would be  mad. Don’t get me wrong. I would hate it. I would tell them they had to change it, and I would pull my material and leave. BUT also, full disclosure: I would watch the show the network tried to make. But I also really love reality television when I need to lie on the couch and do nothing, so maybe don’t take my word for it. However, it’s not Ben Stiller’s fault! He didn’t even know — he TOLD HER THAT. Also she didn’t sign anything, so she owes them nothing? She can literally take her material back and never speak of it again. Why aren’t we communicating here and exploring our options? Ben Stiller is trying to communicate, but Winona needs to hang out for a few days on her own, and then come back and talk professionally. Or is this the 90s where videotapes get ruined and they can’t be used again? Should somebody here be using a car phone?

22. And then when Winona and Ethan hook up . . . 

Well, it’s great because here’s why: there’s music involved, and it’s the ’90s. But then he leaves, and that’s ridiculous. And I remember seeing this movie for the first time (I was 20-something, I kid you  not), and I liked one of my guy friends, and it was a complete and utter disaster, and I compared it to this besides it being NOTHING LIKE THIS AT ALL. So all I could do is . . . cry? I don’t know. He didn’t even like me back! Nothing even happened! But just know that the first time I saw this movie, and this scene happened, and then the U2 montage scene happened, I was all, “OH GOD THIS IS MY LIFE.” (Not my life. Not even close. Seriously, so far from my life that my life is looking at Reality Bites and going, “Um… no.”

23. AND THEN MICHAEL SHOWS UP AND MAKES WINONA’S DREAMS COME TRUE

AND SHE PEACES HIM OUT! I can’t believe that I am watching this happen. Is anybody else watching this happen? And now Ethan’s like “I might do mean things and I might hurt you and I might run away from you and that scares you . . .” and WHAT?! Imagine that was some guy’s way of saying he loved you? Personally, if that were me, I would really enjoy giving this response: “Goodbye.” And also not having been his friend in the first place? WHAT A TERRIBLE HUMAN! And seriously, we have ALL BEEN WINONA. We have all liked a guy like Ethan Hawke. But growing up is realizing that Ethan Hawke’s character is the literal worst. Because instead of saying, “I love you, Winona Rider and I’m sorry” he makes her cry.

Also, now Winona’s career is kind of messed up now, too. Which would actually give me a panic attack if I were her.

24. But I do love the U2 montage at the end

I don’t even really like U2, but I do love that song when it comes on the Reality Bites soundtrack, and I remember when she’s on the phone and says, “Hello? HELLO?!” and Ethan Hawke is all sad. #montages #U2 #phones (Actually it was THAT scene, I got all “MY LIFE IS REALITY BITES” *sobbing* those years ago.) (And again, my life is saying, “It wasn’t — I think she was just emotionally affected by the pay phones.”)

25. WE ALL LOVE REALITY BITES

We all love it. We do. And I can say, “ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW EVERYONE IN THIS MOVIE” but we say it because we care. Like a concerned parent. And no, we don’t support 99.9% of the decisions made in this film (by Winona and Ethan — Janeane and Steve are wonderful), but OUR HEARTS AND OUR MINDS, OH MY GOODNESS. Is it nostalgia? Is it the denim? Is it Ethan Hawke’s hair? Is it the fact that he shows up on her lawn wearing a suit? AND US BEING SUPPORTIVE OF THEIR UNION? I don’t know. But I do know that I will finish this sentence, I will hop in the car, and I will blare the Reality Bites soundtrack on my journey (to the cafe where I am meeting my friend), and I will wonder if I should go back to dressing like Winona Rider.

The answer, my friends, is that I should not. (But you should. Because I can’t.)

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  1. I didnt read this yet..(confession) . If you have a metal slinky put one end in your mouth and close down with a bite, let the other end fall to the floor and tap the midsection it will sound like a starwars soundtack in your brain! So if you dont want to watch a movie you can always pretends your in one! Granted you have a slinky and or imagination!
    Okay a little to0 excited about that so i will now read the article And note how little relivance this comment has on any of it besides the first picture…

  2. In regards to #13, my friend and I say “you would” when referring to obvious things that exist, such as Ethan Hawke being in a band or Winona wearing floor-length floral dresses with socks and keds… good times.

    You need to do Saving Silverman next. Por favor.

  3. Ha! Try being 20 when this movie came out! Talk about looking back and seeing things 20/20… It really was a poignant reminder of “what we were”. “Reality Bites” was the perfect embodiment of Generation X. We WERE going to be something by the age of 23! We were expected to be something by the age of 23! And with no help from mom and dad! Youth today are so different and so sheltered. Youth today aren’t expected to know anything at all or even try to understand who they are until they are well beyond the young age of 23.

  4. What do you mean old lady movie?

    • Oh! It’s only because I am the “old lady” (I know I’m not old). I just came up with the name because I lecture the characters like a grandmother. I promise the age thing is just a joke (except for my sweaters and wardrobe and fair for antiquing). xo!

  5. I hate to be the bearer of logical news, but Coach isn’t Coach from Coach. Coach is actually Frasier’s dad. From Frasier. Obviously no one fact checked you. It’s called IMDB…use it!

  6. Singles is my number one, epitome of the 90s, movie i wanted to live in as a kid flick. when i moved to seattle 4 years ago, it was like a complete 90′s dork dream come true!

  7. I just watched this for the first time a few months ago. I am now 26, and its kinda funny because when I was in high school, I couldn’t get enough of 80s movies. And now I’m in my 20s and I can’t stop watching 90s movies…some I remember from the 90s, and others I’m seeing for the first time. I loved Reality Bites. Its just so…90s! And I can’t help it, I love Ethan Hawke. His character is kinda a jerk. But I don’t care, because its Ethan Hawke.