Here was the late twentieth century’s generational anthem film, except no one seemed terribly interested in identifying with it. Writer/director Noah Baumbach’s debut, Kicking and Screaming is a rueful portrait of four preppy, Ivy League–ish friends. Living off campus, they’re suddenly left in the weird afterworld in which graduation has marked them as grown-ups, but the indulgent, trivia-obsessed allure of college life maintains its grip. Baumbach poured a hundred college careers’ worth of ironic humor into the script, and Chris Eigeman, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Jacott are a dry riot. Eric Stoltz almost steals the movie in an improvised role as a philosophical bartender, but it’s hard not to fall for Olivia d’Abo as an impulsive creative-writing major who’s a tad self-conscious about her braces.
Nobody college grad Helen Childress penned Reality Bites, a magnifying-glass comedy about post-graduation aimlessness and slackdom, and with a great cast (including Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, and Ben Stiller) it lands on a facet of modern reality rarely seen on film: the way twentysomethings can talk in comic code to each other and to themselves, aggrandizing their nothingness and elevating childhood pop culture to the status of idolhood.
A narrow but rueful valentine to the college grads of the ’Nam era, this is the film that introduced Kevin Costner to the world. Here he plays the larky leader of a motley gang of sullen jerks, each of whom is engaged in either embracing the war, running from the draft, getting married, or merely remaining drunkenly unconscious. Costner’s energy keeps Fandango afloat. With Judd Nelson, Sam Robards, and Suzy Amis.
Fandango (1985 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A generational emblem more than a movie, the Mike Nichols classic The Graduate captures the essence of alienation and social incompleteness as only films made in the late 1960s and early 1970s can. Dustin Hoffman became a star in the unlikeliest of circumstances: as an aimless college grad who cannot get a fix on what he wants out of life. He is seduced by a family friend (Anne Bancroft), and is then pressured into dating her daughter (Katharine Ross); as life gets more complicated, he searches madly for any reason at all to choose one destiny over another. Credit is due to 1967 audiences, who saw themselves in this ambivalent portrait, and who dared to ask big questions of themselves and their movies. Picture, if you can, the new millennium’s freshly graduated degree-holders facing the same choice.