Y’know that meme that made the rounds a few years ago involving Cole Sprouse’s character from Riverdale going on about how much of a weirdo he is? I feel like director Quentin Dupieux would feel at home with that meme.
Now, I don’t know this director personally; the statement above is a presumption based on what others say given his past work. Apparently Dupieux is very fond of being incredibly absurd and surreal in his work, with a lot of unconventional filming methods and a fascination with confusing the hell out of his audience. He’s also a… techno musician? That’s certainly a spiffy résumé.
To be transparent here, there was one very large motivating factor to my watching this: Eric Wareheim. For those who don’t know, Wareheim is one of the two that makes up the Tim & Eric duo that has become synonymous with Adult Swim’s rather bizarre late-night sketch comedy blocks. Staying up late to watch Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! in my youth, it was kind of jarring to see Wareheim in a film of this magnitude… but actually, not really. I was under the impression that, odd synopsis aside, this was a relatively “serious” film. After watching it, this is not a relatively “serious” film.
If you were to check out this film’s Letterboxd page, you will (probably) see one of the top reviews simply state “????” and award it three out of five stars. Why I bring this up is to showcase just how easy it is to truly capture the spirit of Reality: it’s pretty weird.
As for my own thoughts, I found it to be an interesting foray into the surreal film genre, one that I admittedly don’t have too much experience with. Sure, I have loads of experience with Tim and Eric sketches and their other productions such as Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule (which is fantastic), but when it comes to feature-length films, the closest I’ve seen would probably be mother!. This is no mother!; this would almost be the antithesis to mother!.
Enough chatter! Let’s talk film. Reality is about one—no, two—no, three characters… wait, maybe four… or two? It shows the perspective of a variety of characters, only to whisk them away as inconsequential… for a time. But the real star… probably… is Jason, played by Alain Chabat. He wishes to make a movie, involving TVs that destroy people from the inside using their evil rays, and is pitching his idea to a producer. Said producer is keen on the idea… he just needs something more. A groan. The greatest groan ever spawned. If Jason can get him the groan he desires, the film is his to shoot.
This is among the most coherent plotline this film produces, though as it goes along the different perspectives tend to mash together and become tangled, as well as faking out the audience with what is and isn’t real. To some extent, this is something of a “classroom project,” a film that college courses could show and have students break down individual scenes or dialogue, trying to piece together what it could all mean. The complexity present with all of these seemingly irrelevant details could make for some fun analysis.
Such details lead to what I find the biggest double-edged sword the film plays with: Does it really mean anything? It could; you could make the argument. Is there a reason why the groan is so important? Why the producer is shooting surfers from his outdoor office/deck? Why a crisp, blue VHS tape fell out of the guts of a hog since slain? For my money, I’m willing to bet it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a bizarre story played and experimented with by a director who’s just making things up on the spot. I can respect that, as someone who enjoys making things up on the spot. I tend to base my criticism this way.
I believe there should be some measure of expectation going into this that it won’t be anything conventional. I went in with some expectation that it’d take itself a tad more seriously, and what I got was a number of ideas strung together with logic only sound to the unconscious mind. To some, this is undoubtedly a pretty wild and enticing prospect. For me, I thought it was neat, but relatively unimpactful. You have to be really committed to taking everything at face value, so that every bizarre diagonal turn the film decides to make turns out fresh and mesmerizing.
Another thing that I found to be an interesting detail was the acting performances. Given this is a weird scenario that’s supposed to appear surrealistic and illogical, the performances tend to vary wildly. The aforementioned Chabat and Élodie Bouchez as his wife are pretty good. Others like Wareheim and Jon Heder are kind of… odd. True, this is a weird film full of weird characters placed in continuously weirder situations. But at the same time, it occasionally comes off as, well, a Tim and Eric sketch. I think the casting choices are a bit of an odd mix of purely French actors and actors involved in weird American content.
And, uh… that’s pretty much it. Kind of felt like I’d have more to say, but I think this wraps it up as much as it needs to. The film is weird and may either mean something or nothing. It’s surreal and it wants to be. The casting choices are pretty disparate in terms of skill, and it’s like a big collage of different things blended together in a sort of pseudo bigger picture. It’s neat, just kind of streamlined specifically for people who like this surrealist stuff… not sure I’m too keen just given this. I’ll stick with Steve Brule or Eric Andre, probably.
Final Score: 6/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!