Generation X is dead — as a subject, that is. The people who purportedly constitute it are still around. They’re young and all that; they’ve got their whole lives ahead of them, God bless ‘em and good luck. But enough already. All the books, articles, dissertations, satires, and wisecracks intended to illuminate what this mass of post-boomers actually represents are old news — and they haven’t added up to a whole lot.
If the sociology that is meant to explain Generation X has been lame, then the entertainment that’s being aggressively marketed to that generation is lamer still. Take, for example, the awful 1994 X-oriented movie Reality Bites, with its user-friendly ensemble of flip cultural stereotypes — one’s a slacker, one’s a player, one’s a trollop, and they all know the words to the Brady Bunch theme song. Unfortunately, Reality’s poor performance at the box office hasn’t stopped other distributors from trying to cash in on the X factor with such twentysomething releases (all recently out on video) as Floundering, Clerks, S.F.W., and Don’t Do It!.
Made by Peter McCarthy, a crony of Repo Man director Alex Cox’s, Floundering is a tougher, more imaginative movie, in which another aimless young man (James LeGros) looks a little too hard at the world around him and winds up nearly psychotic as a result. Like Repo Man, Floundering’s got an eccentric vibe, a canny grasp of the political as personal, and, thankfully, almost no certified X-talk. But its elements don’t cohere. While LeGros’ hallucinations (or are they?) of Los Angeles turning into a police state are broadly funny and occasionally scary, the movie is ultimately undercut by its flat narration and a too-conscientious empathy with the lead character’s plight. In fact, Floundering often does just that. But at least it doesn’t flop around like a gasping goldfish. C+