Matteo Garrone’s Reality, his follow up to mafia crime-drama Gomorrah, may be a far cry from the criminal violence of his earlier work in terms of content, but it retains the unflinching brutality that made him such a critical darling back in 2008, albeit in a very different way. Reality follows Luciano, a charismatic fish-stall owner in Naples trying to get his big break into showbusiness through the TV show Big Brother. As his determination to appear on the show grows and grows, he loses sight of what’s really important, and his life begins to fall apart. The film covers similar ground to Martin Scorsese’s (massively undervalued) The King of Comedy in the sense that they both examine characters stricken with an insatiable, self-destructive lust for fame that ultimately engulfs them. Yet Garrone tries to take this idea a step further by making Luciano the patriarch of a community, in an attempt to make his inevitable downfall all the more tragic. But this tragedy never really arrives, due in part to the lack of any real connection with the community – they’re all larger than life characters, but they have no real bearing on Luciano, and stay very much in the periphery of his reality. This is presumably intentional; a way to show Luciano’s growing alienation from those around him, but it’s very difficult to empathise with a character who seemingly has very little to lose. That being said, as a deconstruction of our culture of celebrity, Luciano’s downfall in Reality is certainly an interesting one. It just lacks the emotional connection needed to make it great.
- Matt Mansfield