Illusions of grandeur found in Reality

Matteo Garrone’s film Reality explores the trouble with “never giving up” on dreams.

Aniello Arena awaits his casting call in Reality

Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone’s new film is quite the departure from his Cannes Grand Prix winning gangster film Gomorrah. Reality (which also won the Grand Prix) touches on ideas of family and community, which Garrone has explored before, but it also demonstrates a different facet of these relationships, a more supportive role. Initially intended to be a comedy, the film does succeed in providing a few laughs, but overall it is a bit too dark to carry that label.

The film opens with a very Fellini-esque long shot following an opulent golden carriage pulled by decked-out white horses through an Italian city until it reaches its destination, a wedding. Here we are introduced to our protagonist Luciano (Aniello Arena) as well as his large and entertaining family.

At the wedding, a past participant on Big Brother (Grande Fratello) Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante) is paid to make a speech for the newlyweds. His mediocre “never give up,” pursuit of dreams dribble leads Luciano to believe that Enzo is no more talented than he is.

When casting auditions for the next season of Big Brother come to town, Luciano’s children beg him to try out. His first audition is successful, and he moves on to the second phase in Rome. He starts to believe that he will definitely be cast in the program and awaits his phone call while also becoming progressively more paranoid that people from the television network are spying on him to fact check what he told them throughout the audition process or simply to view his general demeanor.

By the end of the film Luciano literally starts throwing his life away in order to pursue this dream of being a contestant on the show and  to appear charitable to his fabricated observers. The situation escalates and a familiar tale of  being happy for what you have — to avoid gazing over at the greener grass — starts to unfold.

Arena is very engaging as Luciano but almost too intense. He doesn’t allow you to laugh at his escapades; instead you feel concerned. You want to shake him or help him out not giggle at his antics. I also found myself fixated on his strange family — I wanted to see more of them and constantly anticipated their return to the screen. Reality is entertaining, Luciano’s community feels surprisingly real but I still can’t help but feel like it didn’t live up to its full potential. ■

Reality opens Friday, May 24 at Cinéma Excentris (3536 Ste-Laurent)

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