If you were young when Reality Bites opened on 2.18.94, or exactly 24 years ago, you’re presumably aware that whatever qualities you had that were nervy and attuned and extra-potent in the early Clinton era…well, you know. Time is a killer or at least a diminisher. Everything fades, hairlines recede, midsections spread. The Millennials have already made way for Generation Z. You’ve presumably moved ahead in your field but biologically speaking you’re in the middle of the line, slightly ahead of GenX. Yeah, the boomers can go fuck themselves
Life is generally cruel but especially so in the film industry, and the brutal fact is that two of the principals in this scene are still kicking and thriving but a third is…well, doing okay.
Winona Ryder, who seemed to make a kind of comeback in Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan (’10), was around 22 when Reality Bites was filmed. She’d been a brand-name actress since Beetlejuice and Heathers popped in ’88 and early ’89, when she was 17 and 18. She was great opposite Daniel Day Lewis in Nicholas Hytner‘s The Crucible (’96) but things haven’t been the same since the ’01 shoplifting thing and the four-year-hiatus that followed. She’s doing fine today, but the peak years are memories in a jar.
Ethan Hawke, whose hair is now streaked with gray and whose physique has become pudgy, is my idea of a creatively thriving indie-god hyphenate. His most recent directorial effort was the Sundance ’18 hit Blaze. Hawke is a pusher and a puncher, and seemingly tireless. That final argument scene with Julie Delpy in Richard Linklater‘s Before Midnight (’13) was legendary. He was superb in in the 2004 off-Broadway stage production of David Rabe‘s Hurlyburly and staggering in the ’06 Lincoln Center production of Tom Stoppard‘s Coast of Utopia trilogy, which I saw with Santa Barbara Film festival honcho Roger Durling.
Ben Stiller was the old guy of the Reality trio — 27 or 28 during filming. At the time he was flush from the success of The Ben Stiller Show, which was on MTV from 1989 to ’90, and then on Fox in ’92 and ’93. The last 25 years have been bountiful for Stiller — too many creative and financial successes to recount here. But in Hollywood Elsewhere’s view Stiller’s boldest triumph, the performance that will definitely be mentioned within the first three paragraphs of his obituary, will be his lead performance in Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg (’10).