Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reality (August 2nd and 4th at the Cleveland Museum of Art)

[REALITY screens Friday August 2nd at 6:45 pm and Sunday August 4th at 1:30 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

When we first meet Luciano (Aniello Arena), the protagonist of Matteo Garone's satirical comedy REALITY, he seems happy with his life. And well he should be. He has loving family, a good job as a fishmonger, and a little side income from some sort of scam selling kitchen robots that I didn't fully grasp – must be an Italian thing. At a relative's wedding, Luciano meets Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a past winner on Italy's version of Big Brother who has been hired to offer a toast to the newlyweds. Luciano, a performer at heart, does a little skit with the reality star and then gets on with his life until his daughter encourages him to try out for the new season of Big Brother. Luciano isn't especially interested, but does it for his little girl. Or so he says.

Having auditioned, Luciano's perspective starts to change. Either that, or maybe his true feelings come to the surface. Now he wants to be on the show. And since he's such a likable character, we want him to get on, too. But as the film goes on with no word from the show's producers one way or another, the formerly reliable family man starts to become obsessed with getting on TV to the point that we are forced to reconsider whether we should really be rooting for this guy.

In Peter Weir's 1998 film THE TRUMAN SHOW, Jim Carrey played Truman, a man who suddenly learns that he has unwittingly been the star of a reality television show, and that the world is much bigger than he thought. Once he realizes this, he decides to leave behind the comfort of his artificial bubble for the excitement and unpredictability of the real world. 15 years later, we find ourselves living in a world where you have to wonder how many people would gladly put themselves in Truman's place and just stay in the bubble, basking in the voyeuristic gaze of an audience and leading a completely fabricated existence.

Director Garrone and his co-screenwriters Ugo Chiti, Maurizio Braucci, and Massimo Gaudioso keep things fairly lighthearted for the most part, which is probably for the best. Taking potshots at reality TV  is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, and what fun is that (unless it's part of a challenge on Survivor)? That allows REALITY to effectively skewer the kind of society that could corrupt a seemingly decent guy like Luciano without being heavy handed about it. The film may be a bit too nice at times, and some of its observations about and our modern fame obsessed culture are a far from fresh. Still, the film does manage to find a few fresh takes on the subject and deliver them in a funny, if low key, manner.  3 out of 4 stars.

1 comment:

  1. The picture put me in mind of Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY, just updated for the reality-TV era (and not at all as edgy). I liked those fancy continuous-take sequences, though. Must've been a royal pain to shoot.


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