GREEN'S "FONDLING THE REMOTE" REVIEW:
Lelaina (Winona Ryder) and her friends Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), Troy (Ethan Hawke) and Sammy (Steve Zahn) have just graduated from college and now are experiencing the ups and downs of trying to find their way in the real world, as it is down in Houston, Texas.
Lelaine is a television production assistant for a morning talk show with an ass (John Mahoney) for a host. Vickie works at the Gap, Troy (Ethan Hawke) has just been fired from his twelfth job and moves in with the girls for a place to stay. Accidentally, Lelaine and Vickie meet Michael (Ben Stiller), an up and coming video executive. Michael falls for Lelaine who is secretly in love with someone else but doesn't know it or want to admit it.
This is another one of my finds in the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart, which I had never heard of but purchased on the merits of the cast pictured on the cover. What I didn't realize at the time was that this movie is Ben Stiller's big screen directorial debut. I don't really think of Stiller as a director first but since this movie, he has directed a handful of other movies with varying degrees of box-office success. For a first timer, Stiller does a pretty good job, especially since he's also part of the cast.
The screenplay, written when she was a 19 year old college student at USC, remains the only writing credit Helen Childress has to date. First credit or not, the screenplay accurately captures the uncertainty that goes along with becoming a part of society and finding your place within it. I sometimes feel like I'm still having that problem.
The story strikes home for me because the characters in the film are all at or around my age now and were also when this movie was released in 1994. Even Lisa Loeb, the musician for "Stay," which runs over part of the end credits, is my age.
According to the excellent DVD extras, the lead role was written with Winona Ryder in mind. Coincidentally, when Ryder read the script, she was able to relate to the character and wanted to play the part. The rest of the cast is very good and each brings something extra to their performance. You can tell that the main cast got along well and had fun making this movie.
This film I keep thinking of in comparison to this movie is "St. Elmo's Fire" which is the 1980's coming of age story of recent college graduates trying to fit in.
I happened to watch the 10th anniversary DVD edition of the movie. The aforementioned extras, done for this release, include deleted scenes, feature commentary with writer and director narration, the retrospective featuring interviews from cast, writer and producer as well as an interview with Lisa Loeb and her music video "Stay," directed by Ethan Hawke in one take.
I don't think this would have been a movie I would have wanted to see in the theater, not because it's a bad film but because its just not one of those films where the viewing experience is enhanced by watching it on a large screen.
*** 1/2 out of *****
Reality Bites (1994, PG-13, 99 minutes), starring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, Ben Stiller, John Mahoney and Joe Don Baker. Written by Helen Childress. Directed by Ben Stiller.