Peter Weir’s “The Truman Show” was the first movie that former rubberface comedian Jim Carrey served notice to the world that he was more than his talking posterior. Besides satirizing the then-fledging concept of reality TV taken to its most ludicrous degree, “The Truman Show” combines comedy with human drama and a healthy dose of paranoia. The result is a sometimes funny, oftentimes poignant, and always clever film.
Jim Carrey (“The Majestic”) stars as Truman Burbank, a young man who is adopted at birth by a TV network to unknowingly star in his own reality TV show called, of course, “The Truman Show.” The TV network, under the manipulation of master programmer Christof (Ed Harris), has fashioned a completely fake “world” for Truman, including an island town surrounded by water that exists only within a giant dome building. Christof and his army of TV programmers control the rise and fall of the sun, the weather, and even the ebb and flow of the ocean. When an adult Truman begins to suspect that something is wrong with his “perfect life,” that’s when things start to get complicated…
The screenplay to “The Truman Show”, written by Andrew Niccol (“Gattaca”), is truly inspiring in its creativity. Not only is every aspect of Truman’s life monitored via multiple cameras (some as small as a class ring) for the entertainment of the masses (“The Truman Show” is the number one rated TV show of all time), but also Truman’s life is manipulated to ensure he will never leave the fake island town. Besides giving Truman a phobia of water, the programmers use actors (everyone in the town, except for Truman, are actors) to drill it into Truman’s head that the world outside his idyllic small town is evil and dangerous, and that stepping out into it is akin to suicide.
Because the network literally owns Truman, even his mother and father are actors. His best friend Marlon’s biggest job is to keep a close eye on him; his wife Meryl (Laura Linney) is the most dedicated actor of all because she has to sleep with him! Once Truman begins to suspect that things are not as they appear to be, he struggles to find the answers, and Christof and his programmers struggle to keep one step ahead of him, even going so far as to bring back Truman’s supposedly “dead” father!
“The Truman Show” is astounding, due largely to its continually clever screenplay and the direction by Peter Weir, who makes the film breezy and efficient. There are no extra pounds here, just a film that moves extremely well.
Jim Carrey does a tremendous job as the confused Truman, a man who has to summon strength from a part of him he didn’t even know existed. Natascha McElhone (“Ronin”) appears as a former cast member who broke the rules and tried to tell Truman about his “life”, and was fired as a result. Truman’s obsession with Natascha’s Lauren, who he has fallen in love with as a young man, provides the movie’s most tender moments, especially since Lauren can see everything Truman does via the TV.
It can also be said that “The Truman Show” was ahead of its time, considering the glut of reality TV programs currently on the air at this moment. Back in 1998, the notion of a child bought by a TV network to star in a TV show may have seemed impossible, but nowadays I’m not so sure…
Peter Weir (director) / Andrew Niccol (screenplay)
CAST: Jim Carrey …. Truman Burbank
Ed Harris …. Christof
Laura Linney …. Meryl
Noah Emmerich …. Marlon
Natascha McElhone …. Lauren Garland