I am a bit torn as to my reaction to the new Italian movie “Reality.” It is a film that has raised a lot of questions for me. On the one hand “Reality” is a very strange, insightful meditation on the nature of being a media star, or rather the potential that one could be a media star. After all, don’t we all want to be on television? On the other hand, I found “Reality” to be way too long for what was and not the movie I wanted it to be. Is it wrong to criticize a movie for not heading in the direction in which I wanted it to go?
The film’s trailer had me thinking that “Reality” would be an Italian version of “Slum Dog Millionaire” (2008) the Oscar winning film about a poverty stricken boy in India who winds up being a contestant on India’s version of the American TV game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” “Reality” is about Luciano (Aniello Arena), a likeable, working class man who wants to be on the Italian version of the American reality TV show “Big Brother.” Luciano sees it as chance not just to be on television but to solve all of his financial problems. “Reality” also reminded me of the movie “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), in which Ellen Burstyn’s character, Sarah Goldfarb, desperately wants to be on a reality TV show and goes to dangerous extremes to try to make this happen.
I will not reveal what eventually happens to Luciano, except to say that some of the frustration I experienced in dealing with the length of “Reality” may have been intentional on the part of the film’s director Matteo Garrone (“Gomorra,” 2008). In other words like Luciano, I, the viewer, am waiting for something to happen. If this is the case, is it fair for the filmmaker to keep me waiting, especially if I am not particularly enjoying the ride? On the plus side, Garrone proves to have a refreshing visual sense in his use of long takes. In other words he does not rely solely on editing to make his scenes work. He lets the camera run and his actors, well, act. The result is a very natural interchange between his characters.
So, a mixed bag from me. “Reality” may be one of those films that requires a second viewing.
“Reality” is playing locally at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street.
Posted on March 28, 2013, in New and tagged Angelika Film Center, Aniello Arena, Big Brother, Ellen Burstyn, Luciano, Matteo Garrone, Reality, Requiem for a Dream, Sarah Goldfarb, Slum Dog Millionaire, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.