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"Reality" Review


 The Max (formerly Hobo Max) Original movie Reality is an odd movie - a recreation of the serving of a FBI search warrant in 2017 on the unlikely-named Reality Winner, a former Air Force translator working for a national security contractor in Georgia. Sounds exciting, no? No, it's not. Based on the transcript of a recording by one of the agents, the big selling point is all the dialogue is directly taken from what was actually said. While this may imply added verisimilitude, in actuality it illustrates how "natural dialog" is wildly different from how people actually speak, which is banally.

 Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria, The White Lotus) stars as Winner, who arrives at her Augusta home to find a pair of FBI agents (March├ínt Davis and Josh Hamilton) waiting for her. After a lot of awkward, weird conversation about securing her dog and cat and whether she has any weapons (a pink AR-15 and a Glock), she's held outside as FBI agents toss her house looking for something. She seems oddly unconcerned, not demanding what the heck is this all about, but chatting emptily about her CrossFit training and hopes to deploy to Afghanistan to utilize her Pasto translation skills.

Eventually they go inside to a bleak unfurnished spare room with nothing but a dog crate in it, no furniture to sit on, where the purpose for the search finally comes into view: They know she accessed, printed and leaked a secret document to the press (its subject and who it was sent to is redacted, but we learn it's about Russian election interference in 2016 and was sent to The Intercept) and they gradually wear her down to admit that she did it, not to "be a Snowden" - referring to the notorious NSA who exposed the shenanigans US intelligence agencies were up to - but that she was angry about the Bad Orange Man being President, though she doesn't explicitly say that.

Ultimately, she is hauled away in handcuffs and the movie ends with cards explaining that she caught a five year sentence for violating the Espionage Act while all the "secrets" she was sent to slam for were eventually exposed to the public, the implication being that she was a martyr for truth while the Bad Orange Man was bad and orange and Putin's Puppet and ORANGE MAN BAD! 

The problem with this veiled thesis which is intended to give Trump Derangement Syndrone-afflicted audiences thrills down their legs is that a couple of weeks prior to its debut the Durham Report confirmed unequivocally that there was absolutely zero collusion between the Bad Orange Man and the Ruskies, the entire predicate for years of investigations and denunciations of the Bad Orange Man as a treasonous Russian asset was a lie funded by Hillary Clinton then weaponized by the highest levels of our government and law enforcement agencies to hamstring and ultimately overthrow a duly-elected President because the Deep State believes only Democrats are entitled to rule. (I only learned of this movie when seeing some liberal on Twitter soiling himself over how unfair it was for this noble #Resistance fighter to be jailed for a single document when the Bad Orange Man had stolen hundreds to sell to Russia and the Saudis, which are more lies these people tell themselves to cope with Hillary being a terrible candidate.)

 But setting aside the specious thesis of the film, Reality is weighed down by its core conceit of all the dialog being exactly what was said by Winner and the agents (Free Band Name!) because beyond being able to claim that nothing was invented for dramatic purpose, all it accomplishes is that real people talk in circles about nothing interesting. I guess it's of passing note that real FBI agents don't talk like they're portrayed on TV shows, but who cares? The mic drop moment of The Social Network was when Mark Zuckerberg snarls during a deposition, "If your clients had invented Facebook, they would've invented Facebook." Was that taken from an actual transcript or was it an invention of Aaron Sorkin, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, probably for that line alone? I don't know, probably the latter, but sometimes drama requires creative license. 

The other purpose of Reality is to provide Sweeney a showcase to alter her current sexy cherry bomb image garnered from her role as the always crying and naked Cassie on Euphoria or the super naked lead in Amazon Prime's The Voyeurs which has made her a Reddit fave. This is done by putting her in a shapeless large shirt and giving her a "no makeup" look, but she does fine with what isn't much of a role, limited to what is on the tape, conveying her reaction to finally getting hip to the fact the FBI already know the answers to their questions.

 Co-writer and director Tina Satter, who originally wrote a stage version of this transcript, does what she can to make the very banal happenings not put the audience to sleep. When redacted content in the transcript occurs, she visualizes it by the image glitching and the speaker vanishing. She also intercuts photos from the real Reality's social media and FBI photos to illustrate references which also blurs the line between fact and recreation, but other than reminding use that actresses are more attractive than normal people, they add little.

With little insights to provide for an crime which barely merits a footnote's asterisk in history and told in a fashion which makes it even less compelling when you know what really happened, Reality struggles to avoid reality, so it's not a winner, but a DNF.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

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