Ostensibly a parody of TV shows like The Real World, Blind Date or anything else that involves hot young adults who are presently wading through the Dating Pool, Unreal sure looks like the real thing -- when in fact it's actually a mockumentary. Only it's not really all that funny.
But let's start at the beginning:
The premise here is that three young couples have just broken up, and a handful of documentary filmmakers are going to be following the now-swingin' singles around to see what happens. So Guy A and Girl A break up. We follow Guy A around while he meets Girls D, E, and F. Our second couple consists of Guy B and Girl B, and they're also recently broken up. Girl B flirts with Guy D, E, and F before she curiously bumps into Guy A ... who is in a deli with his very own documentary camera crew.
Obviously the joke of Unreal is that the documentary producers are pulling a fast one on their respective subjects. Not content just to let love-lives take their natural course, the documentarians instead choose to become puppet-masters -- and we the viewer get to figure most of it out well before Guy A, Girl B, and everyone else do.
So I guess my question to the creators of Unreal is this: Where's the funny? I mean, yes, your movie does do a fine job of pointing out how fake and manipulated most of the "reality shows" are, but where's the twist that makes us giggle? Airplane! didn't just indicate to us that the Airport movies were staged, stodgy, and kind of ridiculous; Airplane! took twelve dozen of the lamest and most obvious conventions of the genre and twisted them onto their collective ear. So while Unreal is certainly interesting enough to sit through, one can't help but think the movie showcases an array of missed opportunities.
To its credit, Unreal comes up with a fairly clever concept and is populated by actors both talented and likable. For such a clearly low-budget production, the faux doco approach serves the narrative well. (It might have been easier just to do a traditional rom-com about this material, but the Unreal filmmakers obviously had something more unique in mind.)
So all things being equal, Unreal is a micro-budget indie flick that holds your interest while never actually making you laugh. A few bits will strike you as especially novel, but then again the movie also runs on waaaay too long for its own good. Basically every time I found something to like about Unreal, it was immediately countered with something that bugged me. It's half-insightful and half-obvious while being fitfully amusing but never especially thrilling. Points to the filmmakers for trying a new approach to rom-com convention, but ultimately Unreal feels like something tossed together just to cash in on the Reality Craze. (Perhaps tossed together with care and worthy aspirations, but tossed all the same.) And now that the Reality Craze is finally slowing down (thank the lord), one wonders how well Unreal will stand up in just a few short years.
Video: Full Frame, which is to be expected from a mockumentary-style indie that was shot on video. The transfer looks pretty solid, all things considered.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and the movie sounds exactly like you'd expect from this sort of production. The dialogue's clear enough, which is really all we need.
Extras: There's a full-length audio commentary with director Sloan Copeland and a room full of actors, producers, and pals. It's a track filled with actor-love, "oh we shot this at location X," and lots of talk about getting "that reality show feel." It's a chatty and informative yack-track, but nothing to curl your toes. You'll also find a collection of deleted scenes, outtakes, and the Unreal trailer. Not a bad little package of extra goodies, so if you happen to end up liking Unreal a bit more than I did (and that's quite possible; I didn't really dislike it), you should certainly consider the extras worthy of some special attention.
It's just so tough to review something you're "in the middle" on. If I'd loved or hated Unreal, there'd be a lot more to say! My biggest gripe is not that Unreal isn't drop-dead hilarious, because I've seen plenty of comedies that coast by without rolling me in the aisles. But ultimately I think there's a damn good 80-minute movie here, and Unreal, as it stands, presently runs a full 100. I dig the concept, but I'm lukewarm on the execution.