The Truman Show Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1998


It feels like the world revolves around me.
The Truman Show

It looks like the "Forrest Gump" of 1998 has arrived, and it is "The Truman Show". But instead of a whimsical journey through recent American historical events with Tom Hanks, we are taken on a satirical excursion though the inherent phoniness of life as portrayed by the media, and the unwitting tour guide is played by Jim Carrey, who gives a charismatic and marvelously restrained performance.

Jim Carrey with Laura Linney

Truman Burbank (Carrey) has grown up on television, and unlike the Teletubby generation, he has literally been ON television from the moment of his birth. With the honor of being the first child to be formally adopted by a corporation, Truman has had every moment of his existence captured by television cameras. The Truman Show, a worldwide reality series that runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and every day of the year, has been witness to his first words, his first steps, his first day at school-- nothing has escaped the attention of his audience. However, Truman has no inkling of this-- to him, the world around him is real, despite the fact that he lives on the world's largest studio, a domed construct that contains an entire town within and is able to create its own weather.

Ever feel like your life's been building up to something?

As Truman goes about his daily business, kissing his wife Meryl (Laura Linney) in the morning, exchanging pleasantries with the neighbors, driving in his car, and kissing up to the boss at work, every step is captured from different points of views by the five thousand cameras that dot the artificial town of Seahaven. In an effort to generate revenues (because of the nature of the show, there are no commercial breaks), the producers of The Truman Show insert numerous blatant attempts at product placement. And despite the show's promise of showing a real, genuine life on the screen, everything that happens to Truman has been scripted beforehand, just like the dialogue and emotions of his fellow Seahaven residents.

We accept the reality of the world we are presented. It's as simple as that.
Ed Harris

However, on Day 10,909 of The Truman Show (Truman is on the verge of turning thirty), odd things begin happening that slowly convince Truman that the world around him is not as it seems. A studio lamp suddenly falls out of the sky in front of his house. A homeless man resembling his late father (Brian Delate), who supposedly drowned in a boating accident when Truman was a child, tries to make contact but is forcibly removed from the 'set'. Truman's car radio picks up the communications traffic between the 'backstage' people. Despite the attempts of his friends and family to convince him that he is just imagining things, Truman decides that he wants to follow his secret yearning for traveling to Fiji. However, he finds his efforts to leave Seahaven blocked at every turn by mysterious mechanical difficulties, natural disasters, and sudden traffic jams, all placed in his way by the mysterious God-like producer of the show, a man appropriately named Christof (Ed Harris of "Apollo 13").

I want to get away... see the world.
Behind the curtains at The Truman Show

If you can suspend the disbelief of millions of viewers being able to sustain interest in a television show that covers every single moment of Truman's life (no matter how boring it gets), and the ability of Christof to keep him in the dark for so long, then you will find yourself enchanted by this wondrous Capra-esque fantasy. Despite the plot which has been done before (most notably on television series "The Twilight Zone" and "The Prisoner"), "The Truman Show" manages to surprise and delight. The clever screenplay by "Gattaca" scripter Andrew Niccol plays up on the inherent phoniness of televised drama with a very sly and subversive sense of humor. The script is also engaging in its emotional dynamic of Truman having his world unraveled around him, and choosing between risking his own life for freedom, or to stay content in the world's most comfortable prison. However, unlike the bloated "Godzilla", "The Truman Show" ends too quickly without giving a chance to thoroughly explore the logistical nightmare of running such a television show. Actor's demands for higher salaries, rehearsals, story development, what the cast members do outside of the show, whether Truman actually has sex with his television wife-- these are all tantalizing issues that the audience never gets to see.

The Truman Show is a lifestyle... it is a truly blessed life.

Jim Carrey has of late been attaching himself to more mature films (such as "The Cable Guy" and "Liar Liar"), and relying less on his ecstatic rubber-faced comic energy. In this latest pic, Carrey is very much the James-Stewart-kind-of-Everyman. However, this strong performance has stiff competition from Harris, whose character must do everything in his power to prevent Truman from leaving the show-- a task which he finds difficult, since he has watched the star of his show grow up from infancy, creating a somewhat fatherly attachment. Noah Emmerich, who plays Truman's best friend and confidante, also gives a memorable performance as a man whose motivations seem ambiguous-- in his conversations with Truman, it is debatable whether the emotion he displays is genuine (being cast as Truman's best buddy, he has spent over twenty years of his life growing up with Truman) or scripted. Finally, Natascha McElhone is captivating as a lively pillar of strength in the real world that battles for Truman's liberation.

It isn't always Shakespeare, but it's genuine... a real life.

The film is well-rounded by the wonderfully-cheesy art deco production design by Dennis Gassner and a moving orchestration by Philip Glass. "The Truman Show" has a surprising amount of heart and intelligence in it, and is bound to be the memorable feel-good movie of the summer. How's it going to end? Catch "The Truman Show" and find out!


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