Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Reality vs. The Look of Love, two movies about lurid fame.
PremiseThese movies are about men on the opposite ends of the spectrum of tabloid fame. Reality‘s Luciano (Aniello Arena) wants to be on the Italian-language Big Brother. Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan), the protagonist of The Look of Love, is the richest man in Britain, a fortune built on an empire of smut. Luciano figures he can get famous based on his entertaining personality. Raymond builds an empire on knowing what people want to see: women, naked. However, just as with Hugh Hefner before him, there does seem to be a good amount of spectacle and showmanship involved in catapulting him to prominence: in the trailer, he has a topless woman with long blonde hair ride a horse through the streets. An army of photographers follows. The Look of Love is based on a true story, while Reality looks to be sublime invention. Sometimes fiction can be closer to the truth than reality. (Pun acknowledged, but not intended.)Advantage: Reality
Baring It AllLuciano wants to expand his circle of influence and believes that the best way to do this is to expose his personality to the entire nation. Raymond takes a different tack; his goal is to achieve celebrity by convincing others to showcase themselves under his purview. Luciano’s goals are confessional and based on the assumption that to know him is to love him. Raymond has realized that the bareness that his audience craves is a more superficial one—female nudity—and sets about fulfilling that desire in the most high-profile way he knows how. There’s a noble honesty about Luciano’s quest that Raymond’s cold-eyed pragmatism lacks.Advantage: The Look of Love
The StarSomewhat fittingly for an aspirant to fame, the star of Reality is a neophyte actor. Aniello Arena counts only Reality in his IMDb credits, but he has a certain stage presence. Like a more Italian Hank Azaria, maybe, his face is at once familiar and strange. He’s somehow a “that guy” without ever having been that guy before. Steve Coogan, on the other hand, is a known commodity. His partnership with director Michael Winterbottom has resulted in some notable performances (24 Hour Party People, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, The Trip), especially as the egomaniacal center of the story. He infuses performances with a wry pseudo-self-deprecation that will fit with the character of Paul Raymond as portrayed in the trailer. He also has a bit of a seedy reputation and had an affair with Courtney Love—neither of which hurt when playing a porn magnate.Advantage: The Look of Love
Cult of PersonalityAt the center of both movies—besides nudity —is the personality that is revealed by all that nakedness. The personality is what separates Hugh Hefner from, say, Larry Flynt. Or Snooki from any Real World cast member—there’s just something about them. Raymond is a sneering, swaggering smut titan that looks to combine his oily wit with the media with a softer, family side. Luciano is all raw nerves; his need for affection is apparent in every scene in the trailer, which lends him a weird charm even as he descends into paranoiac madness. There is a sense of despair behind every entertainer—the need for affection from strangers is not 100% psychologically healthy—and Luciano captures that neediness nicely.Advantage: Reality
DirectorWinterbottom, director of The Look of Love, has helmed some seriously good films, especially when paired with Coogan (see above). With him, you’re guaranteed a self-aware comedy about an egotistical, magnetic personality who breaks the fourth wall regularly to inject context and wry commentary into the action. Although Reality director Matteo Garrone is a less well-known quantity to American audiences, he has the excellent Gomorrah to his credit, and Reality is his seventh non-documentary feature film. He’s a seasoned veteran, and it will be interesting to see him turn his keen eye onto a playful exploration of the tragedy of aspirations to fame.Advantage: Tie
The VerdictReality will be an over-the-top paranoid spectacle and portrait of a minor player with aspirations to minor fame. The small scope of the story will give it something of a universality; we’ve all known someone who thinks they would be “amazing” on the Real World. The Look of Love will be an over-the-top grandiose spectacle of the gap between the reality of Paul Raymond’s life and the image he presents to the world at large. It’s all about the kind of mood that strikes you at the moment.Winner: Tie