Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a Neapolitan fishmonger who supplements his modest income by pulling off little scams together with his wife Maria (Loredana Simioli). A likeable, entertaining guy, Luciano never misses an opportunity to perform for his customers and countless relatives. One day his family urge him to try out for the Big Brother reality TV show. In chasing this dream his perception of reality begins to change and his hopes become an obsession.
Review by Louise Keller:
After the raw, confronting power of his 2008 crime drama, Gomorrah (Cannes Grand Prix winner), director Matteo Garrone has changed gears to satirical comedy - to his detriment. While conceptually, the themes involving the confused sense of today's reality hit a note, the film is not funny enough, nor interesting enough to hold our attention for its 116 minute running time. Most successful are the rich characters that Garrone (together with three other writers) have constructed who live in the world of his central character Luciano (Aniello Arena). The imaginary world that Luciano craves is far less interesting; the lack of resolution totally unsatisfying.
The film begins with a drawn-out sequence in which a horse-drawn fake gold carriage carrying a bride and groom make their way into the grounds of a function centre where the ceremony is played out as though a fairy tale, complete with costumed rent-a-crowd. Garrone ensures that we pay special attention to Luciano, who is dressed in drag, wearing bright blue wig and false eyelashes. We also learn that Luciano is a husband and father, eager to have a photograph taken with Big Brother celebrity Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), who arrives by helicopter. Luciano's 'real life' is far more basic: selling fish at the fish market in Naples. I wondered frequently where was this story leading.
The scenes involving Luciano and his extended (overweight) family are the best and most enjoyable. (All these performances are delightful.) There's a sense of pride and excitement among family and friends when Luciano tries for Big Brother in Rome, but as he waits for the all-important phone call to tell him he has been selected, the mood begins to change. So too does Luciano's perceptions, as he becomes trapped in the fantasy of the reality show. Pride and hope turn to obsession and paranoia as he imagines every stranger is a spy for Big Brother, secretly checking him out. Charity begins at home and as Luciano starts giving away their furniture to the poor, his wife Maria (Loredana Simioli) and family are distanced.
The satire reaches its peak when the different realities collide head on. In particular, the scenes where religious connotations are confused for reality television are nicely conceived. But everything drags and goes on far too long. By the time Luciano seems to have escaped from his true reality, I had totally lost interest and was indifferent in his fate.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I suppose that after Gomorrah (2008), fact based drama about organised crime in Naples, director Matteo Garrone is expected to keep lifting the crime movie bar. It is certainly a surprising follow up project, and my disappointment comes not just from the fact that the subject matter is soft but from the fact that the film is so thin.
It's not surprising, given the film's simple focus, that the opening scenes seem to stretch forever without any sense of connection or meaning, and that the ending is equally unsatisfactory.
Luciano (Aniello Arena) is an immature character but lacks the innocent charm that would make him appealing. His wife Maria (Loredana Simioli) is given to histrionics which border on the irritating and the central situation is not comedic enough to warrant the repetition of the basic premise - that Luciano is going off the deep end chasing a place on Big Brother, initially as a way to solve financial problems but eventually to serve some sort of self satisfaction.
Neither sharply satirical nor charmingly amusing, the film - which seems rather longer than it is - falls between its comedic stools. As hard as Garrone tries, the metaphor of the reality show v Luciano's reality doesn't work, leaving us little to latch onto.
Garrone has populated Naples with grossly overweight characters, from Luciano's family (except Maria) down to the hungry who queue at the equivalent of the soup kitchen. This may be taken as a comment.
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CAST: Aniello Arena, Loredana Similoli, Nando Paone, Nello Iorio, Nunzia SchianoGiusseppina Cervici
PRODUCER: Matteo Garrone, Domenico Procacci
DIRECTOR: Matteo Garrone
SCRIPT: Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Ugo Chiti, Mauricio Braucci
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Marco Onorato
EDITOR: Marco Spoletini
MUSIC: Alexander Desplat
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paolo Bonfini
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Curious
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 4, 2013