As the credits rolled on the 25th anniversary screening of Reality Bites at the Tribeca Film Festival this past weekend, audience members who thought, “hey, I can leave, I can leave, oh,” were swiftly stopped in their tracks. Lisa Loeb, whose “Stay (I Missed You)” will forever be intertwined with Ben Stiller’s slacker dramedy, emerged from the wings to serenade the crowd with her 1994 hit, which you might also know as the best song ever written.
Loeb’s performance was paired with a talkback with Stiller, screenwriter Helen Childress, and cast members like Ethan Hawke, Winona Ryder, and Janeane Garofalo. The Q&A was a lively one, with those in attendance debating the film’s legacy as a cinematic manifestation of Generation X.
“My thought process is, I don’t know what the generation is like, but I know what my friends are like,” Childress said. “And they were funny and making bongs out of apples and trying to remember the lyrics to Schoolhouse Rock!, and desperately trying to look like they didn’t want anything.”
Garofalo added, “This is Helen’s story. It doesn’t represent ‘a generation.’ It represents those people, who we would say would be between working class and middle class, white, who had the luxury of having those day jobs and things like that. So I understand why there was some pushback, because that is a blanket statement: a generation. A generation is very diverse, with many, many other stories to tell. Helen was speaking her truth, and I felt that was an unfair pressure to put on the movie.”
While it’s hard, of course, to credit one piece of art with defining a generation, you can pin one to a distinctly twenty-something brand of messy, circuitous yearning—“Stay,” we’re looking at you.