CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.
Film Review: Cannes Winner ‘Reality’ From ‘Gomorrah’ Director Matteo Garrone
CHICAGO – Matteo Garrone is a notable talent. His highly acclaimed 2008 film “Gomorrah” earned praise around the world and the follow-up, “Reality,” won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival last year. It’s a step down from his previous work as it’s less ambitious and doesn’t quite come together but it features enough interesting ideas about our fame-obsessed culture to see why it connected with the French fest jury. And it does nothing to stop that feeling that Garrone is a major filmmaker.
It makes sense that a film called “Reality” opens with a very abnormal event — a wedding in a horse-drawn carriage with people dressed like clowns and lords & ladies while doves fill the air. This is not a common, everyday “Reality.” And Garrone’s film is about a man in a very dull, plain reality who gets a glimpse of the heightened one on his country’s hit TV show, “Big Brother.” The result is not unlike Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” as filtered through Fellini, even if it’s not quite as accomplished as that incredible mash-up might make it sound.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Reality” in our reviews section.|
Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a hit in his small town near Naples. He’s just a local fishmonger but he’s one of those guys who turns into an entertainer at weddings. “You got to go on TV!” his friends and family shout. And his daughter is a huge fan of “Big Brother.” When the show comes to audition in the local mall, his daughter pushes him into auditioning. He gets the callback to Rome, where he spends an hour talking to the show psychologist. Luciano takes this as a good sign. It’s probably not.
The next act of “Reality” features the unraveling of an already-edgy man. Luciano becomes convinced that he’s in some sort of real-world audition, that the producers of “Big Brother” have sent people to watch him in his normal existence as a fishmonger. Here’s where “Reality” gets thematically fascinating. Luciano starts behaving like he arguably should in the eyes of God because he thinks he’s being watched by a TV producer. Shouldn’t we always be kind to others? Things get really problematic when Luciano sells his fishstand to spruce up the house for interviews that will probably never come.
Photo credit: Oscilloscope