Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

CANNES REVIEW: Matteo Garrone's 'Reality' is a Horrific Spin on 'Big Brother' Obsessions

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire May 18, 2012 at 7:45AM

"Reality" makes the case that society renders everyone impossibly small. The first and last shots of Matteo Garrone's drama take place from extreme heights that make their focal point blend with their surroundings. Everything in frame takes on the dimensions of a dollhouse, as if the Italian filmmaker has assumed a godlike awareness. The compositions suggest that people are inherently trapped by their surroundings and never fully capable of realizing it. Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a Neopolitan fishmonger intent on landing a role on "Big Brother." Initially, he endures a low-key existence with his wife (Loredana Simioli) and young children, enthusiastically hawking fish from his tiny stand and running cheap scams for extra money on the side. Driven by some intangible combination of ego and alpha-male aggression, he strives to impress his family at every turn. When his daughters come across "Big Brother" auditions at the local mall and beg him to take a stab at it, he barrels straight ahead. After harassing the jaded host Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a former contestant, Luciano gets a fleeting chance to address the cameras. From that moment, Luciano's perception of his opportunities start to shift and the movie's perspective moves with him. Increasingly obsessed with the possibilities of gaining fame and lifelong security for himself and his family, Luciano's type-A personality kicks in as he embraces the enthusiasm of his tiny community and lets it get to his head -- quite literally. Whereas Garrone's previous movie, the acclaimed crime opus "Gomorrah," took a relentlessly bleak view of its corrupt setting, "Reality" cleverly indulges in the myth it criticizes. In several key moments, Luciano grows so enthusiastic about the possibility of landing on "Big Brother" that it's impossible not to get excited along with him. Then Garrone, ultimately a realist, pulls out the rug from under us and his protagonist at once -- most devastatingly when Luciano's brother (Nello Iorio) pranks Luciano into temporarily believing he got the gig.
0
"Reality."
"Reality."

"Reality" makes the case that society renders everyone impossibly small. The first and last shots of Matteo Garrone's drama take place from extreme heights that make their focal point blend with their surroundings. Everything in frame takes on the dimensions of a dollhouse, as if the Italian filmmaker has assumed a godlike awareness. The compositions suggest that people are inherently trapped by their surroundings and never fully capable of realizing it.

Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a Neopolitan fishmonger intent on landing a role on "Big Brother." Initially, he endures a low-key existence with his wife (Loredana Simioli) and young children, enthusiastically hawking fish from his tiny stand and running cheap scams for extra money on the side. Driven by some intangible combination of ego and alpha-male aggression, he strives to impress his family at every turn. When his daughters come across "Big Brother" auditions at the local mall and beg him to take a stab at it, he barrels straight ahead. After harassing the jaded host Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a former contestant, Luciano gets a fleeting chance to address the cameras.

From that moment, Luciano's perception of his opportunities start to shift and the movie's perspective moves with him. Increasingly obsessed with the possibilities of gaining fame and lifelong security for himself and his family, Luciano's type-A personality kicks in as he embraces the enthusiasm of his tiny community and lets it get to his head -- quite literally.

Whereas Garrone's previous movie, the acclaimed crime opus "Gomorrah," took a relentlessly bleak view of its corrupt setting, "Reality" cleverly indulges in the myth it criticizes. In several key moments, Luciano grows so enthusiastic about the possibility of landing on "Big Brother" that it's impossible not to get excited along with him. Then Garrone, ultimately a realist, pulls out the rug from under us and his protagonist at once -- most devastatingly when Luciano's brother (Nello Iorio) pranks Luciano into temporarily believing he got the gig.

Of course, "Big Brother" and other trapped-in-a-house reality programs already take on Orwellian ramifications, but "Reality" takes it one step further: The movie shifts from a plucky tale of blue-collar misadventures to a media-fueled horror show. As Luciano grows convinced that the program has invaded his life, his enthusiasm devolves into paranoia and he begins to believe, as his wife puts it, "the TV is watching him."

Garrone's patient approach lets this idea permeate Luciano's life through a progression that can feel, particularly in its middle sections, somewhat directionless. However, the very same ambiguity about the movie's intentions underscore Luciano's instability. An ebullient, Disneyesque soundtrack by the great Alexandre Desplat ("Moonrise Kingdom," "The Tree of Life") contributes to an illusory sense of uplift that runs counter to the events actually taking place -- or how they appear to take place.

"Reality" may, in fact, put an end to the idea of Garrone as a traditional neorealist; his naturalism is intentionally misleading right up until the simultaneously haunting and wondrous finale. Critics were comparing it to Martin Scorsese's showbiz satire "King of Comedy" almost immediately after the first screening at Cannes, an apt reference point since both movies deal not with the pratfalls of fame but its impact on those obsessed with achieving it for the wrong reasons.

The reality-show aesthetic pervades the movie as well. Garrone's roaming camera style draws you into each moment with extreme close-ups and long takes that wander through each scene and get lost in it. Luciano's plight is crushing because Garrone renders it with such detail. To a certain degree, "Reality" is actually a reality show with greater resonance than "Big Brother."

Criticwire grade: A-

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Although not bound for major commercial success, "Reality" should continue to play well along the festival circuit and land a midsized U.S. release where it could garner strong reactions in major cities in addition to VOD (akin to the popularity that greeted "Gomorroah").

This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Reviews, Reality, Matteo Garrone






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More