May 19, 2012


Celebrity culture pervades the media, and an unhealthy obsession with them has displaced the news and issues that affect global culture. In Reality, Matteo Garrone explores how the obsession with becoming a part of the cult of celebrity has become a part of our society, and how the unrealistic dreams that reality television presents to those with celebrity aspirations can turn tragic.

The film begins with an introduction to the family at a wedding, and their obsession with Enzo, a winner of the TV show Big Brother. For the American audience, it is important to understand the impact the show has in other countries. While our reality stars stem from The Bachelor or Jersey Shore, stars around the world emerge from Big Brother, and are often respected and idolized by the audience. When Enzo is constantly taken away by helicopter, it may be difficult for many Americans to believe. So, when Enzo emerges at the wedding as the surprise special guest, everyone is thrilled, particularly when our protagonist, the funny and kind-hearted Luciano (Aniello Arena), emerges as one of his many characters, playing off of Enzo’s fame with humor.

Everyone says that he should be on television, but he is comfortable in the life he leads, owning a fish stand in his village. Everything changes, however, when he gets the chance to audition for Big Brother, at the insistence of his family.

What seems to be an initially benign audition rapidly escalates, as he gets a callback, followed by an extremely long interview with the producers. What was once an act of placation for his children instead becomes his dream, his great aspiration in life and his way of creating a better life for his family.

Everyone is excited for Luciano, hoping that his dreams do come to fruition, but little by little his excitement for the show begins to tear everyone apart. He constantly believes he is being followed by the show, in order for them to evaluate his actions. He begins to give away fish, eventually selling his fish stand and giving away all of his belongings. His descent into madness ruins his relationship with his wife, Maria (Loredana Simioli), and even as his prospects of getting on the show dwindle, his desperation increases.

The film is very well acted, mostly by amateurs. Arena was actually in prison during the shooting of the film, and had to be transferred to a different prison and kept under watch during filming, and won’t be released from jail for another 20 years. The idea itself is also an interesting approach to the controversies derived from reality television and the ability of anyone to become a star. However, the film is easily twenty minutes too long, and his deterioration could have been shown in a much shorter time. There were few subplots to help carry the story for the amount of time it took.

A solid film with an interesting approach, but nothing to shout about from the rooftops. I give it a B/B+.

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