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Gomorrah's Garrone sends up the perils of fame-seeking. And faith.

Matteo Garrone (Italy/France, Special Presentations)

Wednesday, September 12, 6:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)

Thursday, September 13, 9:30 p.m.
Scotiabank 3 (259 Richmond Street West)

Retaining little but the neorealist aesthetic and Neapolitan milieu of his blistering crime pic Gomorrah, Matteo Garrone’s satirical, tragicomic Reality cheekily posits that celebrity worship has supplanted religion as the people’s opiate of choice.

Big-screen newcomer Aniello Arena is brilliant as the earthy, exuberant lead Luciano, a man bedevilled by an all-consuming obsession with TV’s Big Brother. A fishmonger, petty fraudster, and loving father of three, Luciano first auditions for the show simply to humour his kids. But, after earning a surprise callback and convincing himself that he’s a certainty to join the cast, he begins to develop an insidious fixation with the spoils of overnight fame.

As he anxiously awaits word from the producers, Luciano experiences something resembling a spiritual revelation. Believing that the show has dispatched scouts to monitor his every move, he resolves to do all that he can to demonstrate his moral worth. The results are painfully funny, if not for his increasingly alienated family and friends.

Reality’s playful, protagonistic parable is a marked departure from the sprawling ensemble drama of Gomorrah, but Garrone exhibits a similar deftness of craft. Nowhere is this more evident than in the bravura extended takes that bookend the film—the latter of which suggests that Luciano’s delusions may finally yield a warped deliverance.