The Truman Show
directed by Peter Weir
(Paramount, 1998)

As sweet, charming and original The Truman Show may appear to be, it at times left an overrated taste in my mouth.

The film, written by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca), is the story of Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), a married thirtysomething who has no idea the entire world has been watching him since his birth. And no, that's not in the figurative sense. The world has literally been watching his entire life -- his first step, his first kiss, his daily life -- through a 24-hour television show. It was conceived by a man named Christof (Ed Harris) who, with a cast and crew a thousand strong, broadcasts Truman's life nonstop using thousands of hidden cameras inside the world's largest arena.

And the arena was the film's first mistake. At one point in the film, Christof is explaining the daily operations of making the 24-hour TV show when a U.S. map is shown with the arena planted overtop the entire state of Georgia. It may have even extended into Alabama, I can't quite remember. Christof never says how long it took to construct the arena -- let alone the cost. And rightfully so, since the whole idea of it is absurd and just ridiculous.

The film wastes no time getting to the point of what The Truman Show is all about: One day, as Truman is about to head off to work, an object -- which appears to be some type of overhead light -- falls to the ground a few feet in front of where Truman is standing. To us, we know it is a mistake on the part of the people behind the show. But to Truman, the object is strange, mysterious and just the beginning of a series of curious happenings that begin to expose Truman to the environment he is really living in.

The main reason it took Truman so long to figure out his pseudo-life -- and to then try to escape it -- is that he had been trained since birth to stay put in his town. And it's not like he ever had opportunity to leave, anyway. Whenever he tries to leave, there is something in his way. And don't even try getting Truman to touch water. He had a bad childhood experience and has been afraid of it since. Even if this benefited the plot, it was too implausible for me to believe that he never once set foot outside his (very) small community.

Acting-wise, the film is first-rate. Carrey is wonderful as Truman. And his wife, Meryl (Laura Linney), is a character played exactly like she should be: stiff, wooden and very actress-like. Because outside of the show, Meryl is just an actress playing a role. Thus, her unobtrusive sexual tension makes sense here.

But no one is better than Harris. He is absolutely masterful as Christof, and deserved a win -- not just a nomination -- at the 1999 Academy Awards. To be the creator of such an absurd television show, you have to be both a bit whacked out, but also extremely careful and subtle in how you move Truman about his daily life. And Harris strikes the perfect balance.

Is The Truman Show a good film? Yeah, it's good -- but I wouldn't rate it any higher than that. What hurts it the most is its concept, which quite frankly is too unbelievable. But if you can look beyond that, you're in for a good ride.

review by
Eric Hughes

1 September 2007

what's new