Reality is a joyous affair anchored by a brilliant lead performance by Aniello Arena and a director who is only getting better and better.
Matteo Garrone’s new film Reality is sensationally exciting; constantly alive in a way that a lot of films these days are not. The film runs just over two hours but is never boring. Spearheaded by a brilliant lead performance and top rate camera work, Reality is one of the most enjoyable films of the year.
Opening with an enthralling aerial shot of Naples, Italy that seems to go on forever, the camera slowly finds its way lower and lower, fixating on a posh carriage being pulled by a white horse. We follow the carriage down the street into a huge estate gated off from the rest of the city into a fantastic mansion where we see many couples getting married. It seemed to be a conveyor belt of weddings, one after another. This is where we first meet Luciano (Aniello Arena), our protagonist.
Luciano runs his own mini fish market, where he and his friend have worked for years. You get a sense that Luciano is not proud of this part of his life, but he does what he must to ensure that his family is taken care of. At the wedding, he runs into a former contestant on the Italian version of the reality show Big Brother. Luciano’s family goes crazy when the “reality star” shows up.
They beg Luciano to try out for the newest season of the hit show to which Luciano seems hesitant at first, but eventually agrees. And when he does, he is an instant hit with the producers. They ask him to go to Rome for final tryouts where he again is a hit with other producers. What at first seems like something he was barely interested in now becomes an obsession.
I shall reveal nothing that follows as I wish to not ruin any of the surprises that Garrone has in store for the remainder of the runtime. What I will comment on is his grand filmmaking style. Garrone’s arrival on the cinema’s world stage with his first film, Gomorrah. In my opinion, Reality is better. Working with cinematographer Marco Onorato, Garrone creates a Naples with bright, vibrant colors mixed with grimy, sweaty archaic locations. Garrone’s extensive use of long takes in the film only enriches the beautiful colors that are on display.
Reality is a film about a lot of things. TV reality vs. actuality, self-reflection, perception and religion are the major themes touched upon here. In one scene, Luciano thinks he is being watched by producers of the show, this causes him to act nicer to people around him hoping he looks good. Other scenes depict Luciano as a celebrity. Every time he would walk into a room the place would light up as if an idol had just arrived. While there are some drawbacks (the film can get heavy handed at times), Reality is a joyous affair anchored by a brilliant lead performance by Aniello Arena and a director who is only getting better and better. Reality put a huge grin on my face.