Matteo Garrone first became known to many of us when his 2008 film "Gomorrah" won the Grand Prix at Cannes. His next film, "Reality," which opens in New York today and Los Angeles next week, achieved the same feat, but has nonetheless proved itself to be somewhat divisive; the grade snapshot shows twice as many C's and half as many D's as A's. Critics agree on a handful of elements, particularly Alexandre Desplat's score and the strength of Aniello Arena's performance as Luciano, a newlywed who attempts to appear on the Italian version of "Big Brother" only to see his dreams and delusions consume him. Many of the differences, however, are in the preference of what we are told and how it is told to us. These questions of style versus substance run much deeper than a pull quote, so click on the name of an outlet to be linked to the full review, and keep an eye on the Criticwire page for "Reality."
PRO: It makes a good companion piece with a great film!
"There's virtually no way to talk about Matteo Garrone's comic fable 'Reality' without giving a nod to 'The King of Comedy'...'Reality' makes a fine companion, responding to a time when the word 'reality' sometimes belongs in air quotes and people feel more entitled than ever to their 15 minutes of fame." -- Scott Tobias, A.V. Club
CON: We've seen it all before.
"The topic has already been dissected and discussed to death in countless feature films, documentaries, magazine article and more, and Garrone really has nothing more to add." -- Kevin Jagernauth, The Playlist
PRO: Even so, we haven't seen it like this!
"Combining the aesthetics of an archetypal Disney fable with the shaky hand-held camera work of a documentary...['Reality' is] a strange juxtaposition between fantasy and reality, culminating in an enchanting, yet startling realistic depiction of the evolving reliance of society to find financial salvation through fame." -- Patrick Gamble, Cine-Vue
CON: That's no excuse for such heavy-handedness.
PRO: There are some incredible shots!
"The opening shot of the film, underlined by a shimmering, playful score by Alexandre Desplat, is a technical marvel, a long helicopter shot over Naples that eventually finds a horse-drawn carriage filled with what appear to be Disney storybook characters moving along a modern road...[the scene] feels like a Fellini dream." -- Drew McWeeny, HitFix
CON: Those shots are few and far between.
"Garrone has a sure eye for outlandish set pieces that exhibit the expansive outlines of his ideas, but these spectacles are sporadic, and the spaces between them tend to lag." -- Jesse Cataldo, Slant Magazine
PRO: It's effectively told through multiple points of view!
In 'Gomorrah', Garrone told his story through multiple characters, without bringing us all the way inside any. Here we see his filmmaking evolved to a level that allows that same exterior perspective, yet with character depth that greatly personalizes the experience." -- Ryland Aldrich, Twitch
CON: Most of those characters aren't very interesting.
"The rest of the relatives are relegated to the background, sketched as an undefined rabble of argumentative voices rather than specifically shaded characters or outlets for satire." -- Jesse Cataldo, Slant Magazine
PRO: It's funny!
CON: It's predictable!
There is a lot more to discuss about "Reality" than fits neatly into a structured (or imagined) quote debate: the performance of Aniello Arena in the lead role, the tonal shifts, and the peculiarity of the camerawork, and the deconstruction of the neorealist style. There's a sharp divide between form and content, and it's one worth checking out.