What do Reality Bites, Lost in Translation, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon have in common?
It’s alright, I’ll wait.
Yeah, okay, so not a whole lot (other than that I happen to have these all in my DVD collection).
What they have in common is they’re all movies where I thought I knew how I felt about them/their characters. Then on rewatching them I had almost completely different reactions than I remembered.
Take, for instance, Reality Bites:
The great big Gen X movie from 1994. Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller, Steve Zahn.
Now, I remember loving Reality Bites. I think it was my favourite movie for a long time. In the early 90s, Ethan Hawke as Troy Dyer was the perfect greasy haired slovenly philosopher artist boy. A little slink across the room, and my teenaged Ethan Hawke crush was solidified.
Lelaina (Winona) was smart and interesting and pretty, and trying to do something with her life. And I had absolutely no time for Ben Stiller’s character Michael. Boring corporate jackass.
Then let 10 years pass. And watch it again.
I want to punch Troy Dyer in the face. Lelaina? Kind of a whiner. And suddenly, I have all kinds of sympathy for Michael.
The boy who is “a total nightmare for women” (attrib: Janeane Garofalo’s character) is of zero interest to me. The man who has an office job and is struggling, I identify with.
We bought this movie because I remembered it so fondly and was certain I’d want it in the permanent library. And about 30 minutes into seeing it again, I was wondering if you could return an opened purchase to HMV. I spent the rest of the movie making disgusted “guuh” noises at the screen.
So why do I think it’s still worth (re)seeing?
For the DVD special retrospective featuring the writer, and all of the original cast.
Ethan Hawke commenting on Troy:
“At the time it was just a character I was playing. But it so quickly, when the movie came out, people really thought that was me. For some reason every now and then you stumble on a part that people feel like… that you are that person.
Which was funny for me cuz the character’s pretty unlikeable, y’know?”
Steve Zahn’s comments on his character — about how people have come up to him and let him know how important his character’s coming out was to them. Reflecting on what his values were when he was young (and shooting this movie) and what they are now that he has kids and more responsibility.
And Helen Childress, the writer, saying that she was amazed how much more strongly she now identifies with Michael.
“Looking at it, it’s definitely from the point of view of a 20 year old, or a 21, 22 year old, as opposed to watching it when I’m 33, now. And I find myself identifying with Michael, y’know more, than I do with Troy or Lelaina and I think… I think that’s just youth I guess. The idealism.”
So, yes. It’s “the Big Chill for Gen X” so for completeness sake, it’s worth watching. And if you saw it the first time around, it’s probably worth watching again. Just to see if you surprise yourself…