Has won critical acclaim as a document of...


April 09, 1994

"REALITY BITES" has won critical acclaim as a document of "Generation X," a movie that tells the young generation's truth as a quarter-century ago "The Graduate" limned the Baby Boom generation.

There are some similarities. The young graduates of today -- educated, idealistic and aimless -- are having as much difficulty as their parents did finding their way in the grown-up world. Reality bites, indeed. And parents, now as then, aren't much help because they've forgotten what it is like to be young. The world is different now.

"Reality Bites" has another theme older than generational change. The beautiful and spirited young heroine, Lainie (Winona Ryder), is loved by two swains. Will she choose the man of action, Mike, who has a job and a direction in life, or the dreamy poet, Troy, who is too fine and sensitive to be shackled by social conventions?

B-movies and Harlequin romances solve this conflict with the heroine shunning the stodgy, domesticated suitor for the free, untamed one. "Reality Bites" is no exception.

The reason for Lainie's choice, however, points to a new generation. Troy, the poet, promises not to give Lainie too much. His rival, Mike, will treat her like a princess, Troy explains; she will be able to control the relationship. But if Lainie chooses Troy, he says, she won't always get her way, and he won't necessarily stick around for her. But it will be an equal relationship; they will honor each other's separateness.

The film provoked debate in one suburban household. The teen-aged daughter said Lainie made the right choice. The father said if the likes of Troy ever came a-courtin' he'd horsewhip him.

* * *

Quick, name the largest private philanthropic organization in Maryland. Having trouble? That's not surprising, given the low-key work of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase.

This organization isn't simply the largest philanthropy in Maryland. It is the largest in the nation.

How big is it? Its endowment is a staggering $7.8 billion. And since the IRS said Hughes must spend at least 3.5 percent of its endowment each year, the philanthropy has to find ways to expand its interest in medical research, especially in cell biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience and structural biology.

There are 230 Hughes "investigators" at 53 institutions, backed by 2,000 secretaries and research assistants. Hughes doesn't simply hand out grants to scientists; it also builds or renovates lab space and then pays for the overhead. It has allocated $270 million for that purpose over 10 years.

With $273 million to be spent this year, Hughes intends to add 44 researchers and expand its operations to 10 more college campuses. That will add $30 million to the group's budget, but this is one group that can easily afford it.

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