Reality Bites (1994)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 11-Jun-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1:59
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 94:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:02) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ben Stiller

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Winona Ryder
Ethan Hawke
Ben Stiller
Janeane Garofalo
Steve Zahn
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Karl Wallinger

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hungarian Titling
Czech Titling
Smoking Yes, Incessant, and not limited to tobacco
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Reality Bites captures a period in the early nineteen nineties that's already gone. Extraordinary. I don't feel that much older, but this film feels dated. OK, not as much as The Big Chill, or John Hughes movies, but it's definitely no longer contemporary. One of the most dating features of the film is the video camera that plays such an important part — video technology has changed a lot in the last ten years.

    This is the story of four friends after graduation (three of them graduate, one leaves his degree incomplete). One is wannabe documentary film-maker Lelaina (a very waif-like Winona Ryder), better known as Lainie, valedictorian of her graduating class. Then there's her close friend Vickie (Janeane Garofalo), the wannabe Woodie Guthrie, Troy (Ethan Hawke), and the obligatory minor character, Sammy (Steve Zahn). This story is told almost exclusively from Lainie's point of view.

    After graduation we jump a little time. Now Lainie is working for a Good Morning programme featuring a character almost as nauseating as Bert Newton in maximum saccharine mode, but less sincere. She's building up a documentary about her friends, but working on the programme to pay the bills. Vickie has compromised her principles, and is working at The Gap clothing store. Troy has just been fired from his twelfth job, on a newsstand, and is sleeping on the couch in the apartment Lainie and Vickie share.

    Lainie has a minor car accident with Michael (Ben Stiller). Michael is a tense studio executive (played in that trademark tense Ben Stiller way), working for In Your Face TV (described as "like MTV, but with an edge" — now that's dated!). Michael takes a shine to Lainie, especially after she breaks something. He asks her out. Troy has a problem with this.

    There are some amusing moments in this film, most especially......(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) did you think I'd really give away the best bits? Sorry — you'll have to watch the movie!

    Even though the film has dated, it's still well worth seeing, especially if you were in your twenties or thirties in the early nineties.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. That's the theatrical aspect ratio.

    The film footage is gorgeous: clear and sharp, with quite decent shadow detail. Film grain is no problem, and there's no low-level noise. The video footage (simulating the view of the world through Lainie's video camera) is rather poorer quality, but that's quite deliberate.

    Colour is well rendered in the film footage. It's not an extravaganza of primary colours, but skin tones are accurate and there's no lack of saturation, nor are there any colour-related artefacts.

    I spotted a few film artefacts, but the only one worth mentioning is a small white chip on the bottom edge of the frame at 29:03.

    There is no visible edge enhancement, no aliasing of any significance, and minimal moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts. This is a good transfer.

    There are subtitles in English and six other languages. I watched the English subtitles, and they are excellent — well-timed to the dialogue, very accurate, and easy to read.

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, RSDL-formatted. The layer change falls at 56:02 in the middle of a scene and is not hard to spot. Still, it's not too disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The English soundtrack (there are two others) is Dolby Digital 5.1, although you could be forgiven for wondering why.

    The dialogue is easily comprehended, and there are no visible audio sync problems.

    Karl Wallinger's score is fine, but the bulk of the music in the soundtrack comes from the more than 30 songs, mostly contemporary music.

    The surrounds get little to do other than bleed some of the score — there are no directional sound effects. The subwoofer isn't needed — it supports the lowest octave of some of the louder songs, but that's about all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is very simple, and easy to use. It's static and silent.

Trailer (1:59)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, this is a reasonable trailer, but not much of an extra.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc was released some time ago — the packaging is copyright 1998!

    The R1 is missing:

    The R4 is missing:

    The single layer is the greatest drawback to the R1 — it means the video footage looks worse and the film footage shows rather less shadow detail. The transfer looks darker, too, but I suspect both versions were derived from the same high-def transfer (the R1 shows that same white chip at 30:16 — same frame).

    The Region 4 version has noticeably better video, more than making up for the missing production notes and bios.


    Reality Bites is a fun film given a decent, albeit bare-bones, presentation on DVD.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are, um, negligible.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, August 03, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
MovieHole - Clint M
The DVD Bits - Shane A
DVD Net - Jules F
AllZone4DVD - Magalie S

Comments (Add) NONE