A strange and multi-layered narrative, you'll either laugh or scratch your head at Quentin Dupieux's latest.
The one thing you can always count on in a Quentin Dupieux film is that it will rarely make sense. His previous works of Rubber, a film about a homicidal car tire, and Wrong, an absurd missing dog story that amounts to nothing, should serve as clear indications that Dupieux is a surrealist filmmaker who doesn’t care about logic. His work often divides audiences—you’re either a fan of his meta-narrative tendencies or you despise them—Reality is no exception.
Like past Dupieux’s films, describing the plot mechanics of Reality is challenging and mostly useless. Here each subplot weaves with another, but unlike most interlocking storyline films, they never actually form into a cohesive story. For example, the film begins with a character named Reality (Kyla Kenedy), a daughter of a taxidermist who finds a mysterious blue cassette tape in the innards of her father’s latest kill. She spends the rest of the film trying to play the tape (which she eventually accomplishes, though it doesn’t make sense, naturally). But one night when Reality begins to fall asleep, Dupieux takes us down the first of many rabbit holes. Suddenly, the image of Reality sleeping is projected on a movie screen in a private screening between a movie director named Zog (John Glover) and Bob the producer (Jonathan Lambert). Yet, Reality interacts with and weaves into other story threads, making it impossible to tell reality from dreams, or if any given scene is actually part of a movie-within-a-movie. Leos Carax, David Lynch, Luis Buñuel, and perhaps even Jacques Tati would be proud.
The closest to a lead in the film is Jason (Alain Chabat). He plays a cameraman for a cable access cooking show (hosted by Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) who wears a giant rat suit and suffers from an invisible case of eczema) and an inspiring filmmaker who pitches his film idea to Bob (who insists the filmmaker capture the best groan in movie history if it’s to receive financing). Later on Jason finds out that his idea was already made into a movie by a different director. But maybe he was just dreaming it was? Or perhaps Jason is a lead in the movie about wanting to make a movie? Maybe both.
Is your head spinning yet?
One red herring after another, Dupieux throws ideas at the wall without any intention of anything actually sticking. Eric Wareheim cruises around in a military jeep dressed as a woman for no clear reason, but he also plays the superintendent of Reality’s school. Every storyline connects, but the collection of random ideas amount to very little. Dupieux presents “reality” in the form of nightmares and half-truths, but never in a way to be taken too seriously. In fact, Reality might be Dupieux’s funniest movie yet. When Jason shows up to watch the movie he hasn’t made yet, Rubber 2 is displayed on the marquee outside the theater, a subtle nod for fans of the filmmaker. More obvious humor is found when Jason obsesses over recording an “Oscar-worthy” groan for his movie or when Bob can’t make up his mind on having the meeting with Jason inside or outside, eventually moving his entire desk to the middle of the woods.
Trying to put all the pieces together is pointless. The sooner one can accept a character shooting a surfer with a sniper rifle from his patio, the sooner they may just find the film to be an enjoyable experience. Still, as creative and thought-out as the film may be, its empty absurdity is frustrating and often tedious to sit through. For one of cinema’s strangest filmmakers, Reality’s humor and brain-teasing is a step in the right direction, but will still leave most viewers in the middle of nowhere.