Reality (Il Grande Fratello) (R)

Comedy 115 March 22, 2013
By Michael Atkinson
Step by step, with a setup that evokes Honeymooners episodes, Matteo Garrone’s Reality builds to as scalding a vision of televisual simulacra and its maddened victims as Scorsese’s The King of Comedy. Garrone’s follow-up to 2008’s Gomorrah, Reality begins with a helicopter shot over Sant’Antonio Abate and a Renaissance horse carriage and a Felliniesque yet assiduously realistic wedding party so grotesque and overwrought you feel the teeth marks of Garrone’s irony-loaded title in every faux-aristo explosion of zeal and cartoon opulence. Is this real? Not for a moment, but it gets only more hyper-unreal, when the nuptials, already crammed with frenzied disco gaiety and drag schtick, are guest-visited by a beloved former cast member of Big Brother, whose presence electrifies the crowd. The family patriarch, Luciano (Aniello Arena), is bedazzled, watching the quasi-celeb get choppered away like a dignitary from another planet. It’s a world Luciano can’t get out of his skull. Soon the hit Euro reality show is staging auditions in a Neapolitan mall, and to please his kids Luciano submits to an interview—despite being middle-aged and far from telegenic. With that his life selling fish and running pension scams begins to shred. Garrone’s film explores nothing less than a mass delusion, personified by this one eager schmuck, a savvy Everyman who descends into paranoid magical thinking, finally obliterating his family and his sanity in order to, effectively, cross over into the broadcast afterlife. A prize-winner at Cannes, Garrone’s film grows in your head afterward, making royal hash out of a cultural paradigm we’ll be loathe to remember years from now—if, by then, everything hasn’t become “reality.”
Matteo Garrone Aniello Arena, Loredana Simioli, Nando Paone, Graziella Marina, Nello Iorio, Nunzia Schiano, Rosaria D'urso, Giuseppina Cervizzi, Claudia Gerini, Raffaele Ferrante Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti Domenico Procacci, Matteo Garrone Oscilloscope Laboratories


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