Reality Review


Andy Warhol famously said that, in the future, everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes.

Well folks, that future is here.

Alas, for most people out there this fifteen minutes has mutated from a savvy soundbite to a lifelong ambition that must be fulfilled at all costs.

Such is the central premise of Cannes-favourite Reality, a film about fame, madness and the wafer-thin line that divides the two.

The film is director Matteo Garrone’s unexpectedly charming follow-up to gritty 2006 gangster film Gomorrah and, although pitched as a comedy, is at times as dark as its predecessor.

From the opening shot, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching My Big Fat Neapolitan Wedding.

The camera tracks and zooms in on a horse-drawn carriage threading its way through the streets of Naples, chauffeuring a young couple to their elaborately-orchestrated nuptials.

Through the course of the festivities we are introduced to Luciano and his extended family, a loveable bunch of misfits.

Luciano is the local fishmonger, who spends his spare time pulling off small-time scams that involve household robots and are too surreal to even attempt to describe.

At the wedding reception, and for reasons best known to himself, Luciano dresses up as a drag queen and jovially accosts a celebrity speaker by the name of Enzo, whose claim to fame is the 116 days he spent on the TV show Big Brother.

Or “Fratello Grande” for any Italophones out there.

This brush with fame sets in motion a series of events that see Luciano auditioning to be a housemate on the next season of Fratello Grande.

Reluctance soon turns to enthusiasm, which in turn gives way to obsession, as Luciano’s desire to be selected for the show spirals dangerously out of control, with mounting levels of paranoia and delusion.

This instability drives an element of the aforementioned darkness, as Luciano’s family life realistically crumbles around him and his wife is driven to the brink of despair.

The film generally balances this out: an air of lightness and charm is lent by the quirky community within which Luciano resides.

And there are some laughs along the way: a scene where Luciano crawls through an air duct to attract Enzo’s attention is sure to a smile.

Sharp observations are made on the link between religious worship and celebrity adulation, as two elderly ladies misinterpret Luciano’s queries on how to get into the ‘Big House’.

And Luciano’s unwavering self-belief can be interpreted as a messiah-like complex, particularly in the following he engenders amongst the town’s unfortunates.

In the lead role, Aniello Arena capably conveys Luciano’s mental decline. The supporting cast is equally terrific; naturalistic to a tee, with their firmly grounded feet nicely contrast Luciano’s generally clouded head.

The only grip is that the film is perhaps a little late in its commentary on the reality-TV genre. Or fifteen years late, to be precise.

But ultimately this is an intelligent, well-crafted film that has something to say and says it well.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

March 2013