IN REALITY: A Relatable Autobiography Of A Friend-Zoned Woman
In Reality is a fun flick that uses a variety of styles to tell the story of a woman many of us are all-too familiar with: one obsessed with a failed relationship. It fits two criteria to pass the Bechdel test, “It must have at least two female characters” and “The must both have name” but fails at the third criteria, “They must talk to each other about something other than a man”. The latter is due to the natural premise of the film: a woman analyzing why a man she liked didn’t like her back.
In Reality is marketed as an autobiographical film about the writer/director, Ann Lupo and it’s easy to believe that it is true considering the character shares the same name and the content is incredibly relatable if you’ve ever dated someone you really like only to discover they just want to be friends.
Let’s start with the styles used: stop-motion, 16mm-esque fantasy moments, black-and-white documentary talking-head, and old-school talk-show. The majority of the film plays out in scenes that remind me of television reenactments but it’s not clear if that is intentional or merely my interpretation. We’re introduced to the film through stop-motion in a pencil-and-paper title sequence where the company logos are drawn on notebook pages. This is reintroduced through the seven chapters. A page flips in the notebook, the chapter number is drawn, and something representative of the chapter animates whether it’s a flower wilting or an endless spiral – all done in stop-motion.
I’m not sure whether 16mm film was actually used or just replicated for fantasy scenes but it was a nice way to mark the moments as “dream sequences” and “fantasies” to show Ann’s imagination at work. The documentary interview moments intercut nicely (and irregularly) providing for more insight into some key emotional moments without providing too much of a documentary structure. It also helped sell the acting performance of the lead as more of a “real experience” than a performance which leads me to view the rest of the film as reenactments than anything else.
And lastly, the old-school talk-show moments provided an illuminating look at how Ann internally speaks and thinks about herself with a particular focus on her nose. All these elements combine to showcase Ann Lupo – the writer/director – and her love for the craft of making a movie.
While In Reality may not pass the Bechdel Test we are still privy to an accurate portrayal of female friendships which include ups-and-downs, jealousy, disagreements, and apologies. Ann is the annoying friend in a relationship: the kind who forgets friends, forgets plans, and who – when she finally sees her friends – is busy talking about the current man in her life. Her friends tolerate it up to the point where they realize she is obsessed with John, a man she dated a few times and it seemed like they were meant to have a lasting romance until he told her he just wanted to be friends. Ann continues to hang out with him while pining away and he just takes her as a great friend with a lot in common.
They implore her to move on – as good friends do – but Ann heard one story of a friend who had a similar experience and now the two are engaged so she refuses to give up hope. This is reminiscent of Ginnifer Goodwin’s role in He’s Just Not That Into You. It was a surprise to see Kimiko Glenn (of Orange is the New Black) in the film as the best friend, Lallie (it’s really Lauren, but that’s so boring she goes by Lallie). Lallie and Ann have moments where the two seem jealous of each other’s relationships, namely, spending more time with someone other than each other. This is something friends go through when the other is in a relationship and it can be challenging to find the romance-work-life-friend balance!
Ann’s obsession with John isn’t immediate. At first, she likes him but is trying to focus on herself and go through a “happily single” phase so she doesn’t pursue it further. John, however, pursues it. This is where her trouble starts. Ann tries to play it cool and eventually gives in only for John to friend-zone her. They continue to enjoy each other’s company and joke that they’re the same person with their numerous similar qualities (both have divorced parents because of cheating, for example).
This relationship-confusion seems relatable across a broad spectrum: who hasn’t thought they met a great person they really connected with only to be told they aren’t looking for something serious, they enjoy your company and want to be friends, or some other form of “I like you but not like that”? This film is Ann Lupo’s attempt at understanding what went wrong where, presumably with the goal of fixing it or preventing it from happening again.
In Reality: Conclusion
It’s certainly an indie-film with some soft-focus and low-light grain in a few scenes and acting that doesn’t necessarily impress but the creativity in the storytelling makes this a fun exploration into the “Why does this happen?” in dating and relationships.