The Truman Show

Moviescramble reviews the 1998 classic comedy drama The Truman Show.

In these days of wall to wall reality TV shows it is difficult to remember a time when we were not subjected to the endless mindless programming that passes for entertainment. The Truman Show was made in 1998 pre-dating the phenomenon that was, and is, Big Brother. Following on from that success many other reality shows were commissioned until we reached a point where reality dramas like The Only Way is Essex receives a BAFTA in 2011. In 1998 The Truman Show seemed like some alternate earth and could not possibly come true.

This is the story of Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey). Living in the idyllic seaside town of Seahaven, Truman is an ordinary man. He holds down a job as an insurance salesman and spends his time living in domestic bliss with his beautiful wife, Meryl (Laura Linney), and spending time hanging out with his best friend of many years, Marlon (Noah Emmerich). Everybody in the town knows him but he somehow seems disconnected from everyone. Strange things start happening around him; lights falling out of the sky, his car radio issuing instructions and the strange way his wife describes products in detail as if in a commercial. Truman lost his father in a boating accident when he was young and now has a deep fear of being on and crossing over water. In effect he has imprisoned himself in the town as the only way out is a bridge over the bay. A chance meeting with a down and out that appears to be his long lost father, makes Truman question everything around him and to seek out the truth about his town, his family and his entire life.

This film was a real departure for Jim Carrey. Up to then he was best known for his over the top physical comedy roles. Through the likes of The Mask and Ace Ventura he achieved great success which somewhat pigeon-holed him in terms of audience expectation. For the part of Truman he is more understated than he has ever been before. The comedy in this film is very dark and the main emphasis is on the human drama that unfolds. The success of the film firmly rests on his shoulders. He is in nearly every scene and due to his acting and the superb script he easily carries the film along nicely. Due to this major performance most other parts are minor by comparison, Even with these restrictions the performances by Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natasha McElhone and Peter Krause are all good. The only serious rival to Carrey’s performance is the role of Christof (Ed Harris). He is absolutely superb as the creator/director of the TV show.

The film asks questions about what are the acceptable lengths we can go to in search of entertainment. What is the price to the participants in reality TV? Does it not in fact make us voyeurs? Is that not the point of the format? Some of these are answered and others are left for the viewer to ponder. Truman has never known any other reality. From birth he has been viewed, molded and manipulated by everyone around him but he knows no different. In some ways he is living the dream for many, in a perfect town where the sun seems to shine all the time.

As noted the script and the performances alongside the direction keep the film fresh and interesting. The views switch from standard film scenes to the view from button cameras and hidden cameras. This all adds to the enjoyment of the film as a whole

A very good film. It’s a nice to see an actor stretching themselves and producing something quite superb. Highly recommended.

John McArthur
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