A dark comedy about the nature of fame

Aniello Arena and Giuseppina Cervizzi in REALITY. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Reality begins in surreal splendor: a golden carriage, like something out of a storybook, pulled by white steeds along sun-splashed streets, away from the traffic and thrum of the city.

Finally, a couple emerge - into a cheesy theme park setting of fountains and gardens and statuary, where the man and woman, with great expense and excess, are to be wed.

Fellini-esque? You betcha.

One of the guests at the ceremony is Luciano (Aniello Arena), a humble fishmonger. Humble, but relentless: When he spots the reality TV star Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), Luciano turns into a crazed stalker. And "crazed," in Reality, is the operative word.

Strikingly different, in tone and theme, from Matteo Garrone's grim and fascinating gangster pic, Gomorrah, the director's Reality is a dark allegorical comedy about the nature of fame, about obsession, about madness - and the point where they converge: on Big Brother, a TV show watched by millions.

Luciano wants nothing more than to be a participant in the new season, and he is confident he will be chosen. So confident, in fact, that he sells off his fish stall, setting him and his wife on a course of financial calamity. But no worries - once he's on Big Brother he'll be famous, he'll be rich, all will be right with the world.

Shot in sweeping, colorful tableaux by cinematographer Marco Onorato, Reality has a dreamlike quality that suits - and reflects - the dreams of its protagonist. Does he get on Big Brother? Do all his fantasies come true?

What do you think?

Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.


Reality (Il Grande Fratello)

Directed by Matteo Garrone. With Nunzia Schiano, Graziella Marina, Nello Iorio, Giuseppina Cervizzi, Loredana Simioli, Claudia Gerini, Rosaria D'urso, Aniello Arena, Nando Paone, Raffaele Ferrante. Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories.

Running time: 1 hours, 55 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for some language).