Four disenfranchised hipsters collide with the real world when documentarian Lelaina accidently puts her work in the hands of Michael, a slick television producer. Hilarity, romance, grunge, flannel and a seminal Generation X flick ensue!
We’re introduced to Lelaina (Winona Ryder), her roommate/best friend Vickie (Janeane Garofalo) and their mutual friend Troy (Ethan Hawke) who’s recently lost his job and is forced to crash on their couch. Sexual tension grows between Lelaina and Troy, despite (or because of) their constant bickering.
She Said: Do you think old Ethan Hawke wants to time travel to this Ethan Hawke and tell him not to cheat on Uma Thurman?
He Said: Definitely! What is he – an idiot?
She Said: It’s 2012; I think we have the answer to that question! They sure are trying to push the “cool soundtrack” pretty hard.
He Said: It’s odd that the songs aren’t even lining up with the era. The music is totally off – and now they’re watching a show (Good Times) that was already twenty years old. This is weird.
She Said: The incongruity is distracting.
He Said: Why are they so focused on the past?
She Said: Every generation thinks it is hip to have the knowledge of twenty years prior.
Why so blue, Steve Zahn? Oh, yeah – you took this thankless role and you’re barely in the film!
Lelaina “meets cute” with Michael (Ben Stiller) by accidently setting fire to his car when she flicks a still burning cigarette into his passenger seat at a stop sign. Hey, points for originality! They later set up a date and wax rhapsodically about the joys of the Big Gulp. Congrats to 7-Eleven for helping subsidize the film industry.
He Said: Who wrote this crap?
She Said: Umm… Helen Childress.
He Said: What’s her problem? Has she ever heard real people talk? No one listens to Peter Frampton, by the way.
She Said: I smell payola. Whoever put the soundtrack together got paid off.
He Said: This is the shitty corporate version of Slacker.
She Said: I had a feeling this would be torture for you. Have I told you I love you lately? Ah, here’s the Dave Priner (lead singer of Soul Asylum) cameo. Winona was dating him at the time. Her rebound from Johnny Depp.
He Said: Dave’s a nice guy. He slept on my floor once.
She Said: See, there’s a movie about the ’90s – the diary of Larry Crane! When are we gonna make that?
Ain’t it great to be hip?
More dramedy occurs as Lelaina is forced to choose between sweet but corporate Michael and slacker jerk Troy, culminating in a dance-off at club to the tune of MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This.” I’m kidding – but there is a pointed cover of the Violent Femme’s “Add It Up” that creates a turn of events for the finale. Yay!
She Said: I know this is supposed to be about the challenges of coming of age, but all I can hear is them whining. What’s scary is that the majority of reality television is better than this film.
He Said: No shit. Can we rename this Reality Bites My Ass?
She Said: I wonder if there’s a porn parody of this movie. I don’t want to look it up though; I fear my computer will pick up more viruses than Courtney Love.
He Said: (Troy and Lelaina finally consummate their relationship) This song is called “Inside Winona.”
She Said: Yeah, it’s a Soul Asylum B-side.
He Said: They are both a couple of dicks, so it’s really hard to care about either one of them. That’s the problem. It pisses me off the same way Blue Valentine did – it’s awash in a patina of self-aware hipster-ness.
She Said: Are you going to get your Blue Valentine tick going again? That would be awesome!
He Said: A lot of people should go to hell for this film.
She Said: Well, Ben Stiller was the director. Maybe he’s just not that hip.
He Said: All right, it’s decided. Ben is the one going to hell.
She Said: Glad we got something accomplished this evening.
I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really ridiculously good-looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.
To be fair to the film, I must mention that I did a little research post-viewing. It turns out Stiller and Co. actually weren’t trying to make an ode to the Grunge era, they were simply trying to make a unique take on the ubiquitous rom-com. It’s just too bad they forgot to mention that detail to marketing.
The back-story is really quite interesting. This was Ben’s first stab at directing; he was given the job after the success of The Ben Stiller Show. (Anyone remember that? Me neither.) He worked with the screenwriter for three years as the script went through 70 different drafts. If only the Kardashians showed such dedication to their trash – err, craft! The film continued to languish until Winona Ryder signed on. Think about that for a moment. This is back when Winona had the power to green light scripts. Now that’s the epitome of the ’90s.
Speaking of Ryder, the role of her best friend in the film almost went to Gwyneth Paltrow instead of Janeane Garofalo. Winona and Gwyn would later become real life gal pals as they infiltrated the most famous bromance of our time: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Yes, this foursome used to terrorize Tinseltown with their ridiculously good-looking love matches (Damon with Ryder and Affleck with Paltrow). Later the girls would have a famous falling out after Winona accused Gwyneth of stealing the role of Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare in Love, for which Paltrow would win an Oscar. Now there’s an interesting plot. I wish would someone would make a movie about all that nonsense!
And, for the record, I change my answer about Stiller being the one who should go to hell for this hot mess (he did, after all, ultimately give us Zoolander). I formally nominate Ethan Hawke. Not only would he later he cheat on his wife, goddess Uma Thurman, he’s also responsible for giving the world Lisa Loeb. Ethan and Lisa were neighbors in NYC and he’s the one that got “Stay” on the soundtrack. Loeb’s popularity gave rise to cat eye (birth control) glasses and coffee house song nights. For shame, Ethan.
All right, maybe I’m not so mad at Ethan after all. Lisa looks like a pretty fun chick! [Photo Credit]
It’s aged about as well as Winona. Still a silly/fun ride, if you can sit back and enjoy the inconsistencies.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone wears a flannel or says a hip catchphrase.
Take a Drink: every time Lelaina uses her gas card. Sounds odd, but trust me – you’ll get a nice buzz off of this one.
Take a Drink: every time they show “found footage” of the gangs’ antics.
Take a Drink: when Lelaina quits her job with the most fabulous act of revenge, ever.
Do a Shot: during Lelaina and Troy’s slow-mo love scene. You deserve it.