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The Truman Show (1998)

February 18, 2010

9/10 Big Brothers

I’m truly amazed that FOX hasn’t turned this into a real thing yet.

The Truman Show is about a man whose life has been the center of the world’s most popular reality TV show since the day he was born and for going on thirty years he’s been totally oblivious to it. Then one day movie set lights start falling from the sky and people start looping the block for hours at a time among several other even stranger occurrences, and Truman starts to wonder, “What the eff is up with this town and why is my wife constantly plugging hot chocolate?

The first time I saw this back in ’98, I vividly remember walking out of the theater and thinking for the first time ever, “That was really good acting.” Now, I was also going through a big Jim Carrey kick at the time, so big that I probably considered him a personal hero of sorts and would certainly have pissed myself with glee had I ever gotten the chance to meet him in person, so I was a little biased. But ten years later, I gotta say that little Aiden wasn’t too far off.

High concept movies like this don’t come along too often and, more importantly, nor do they usually work this well. There are a lot of aspects about this movie to appreciate, but the concept and execution are really what do it for me. In our Orwellian/Huxley-an world of overnight YouTube celebrities, CrackBerries and Twitter orgies, sometimes I can’t help but feel like I’m plugged into The Matrix and I don’t even know it. Writer Andrew Niccol does a great job of playing into this feeling of paranoia and director Peter Weir does a great job of playing it all out on screen.

The whole thing is just an utterly immersive experience. From the fluid change in perspective that jumps from Truman’s world to the outside world to the those who create it all for him, to the everyday objects that serve as hidden camera angles for us to experience it not so much as a movie but as an actual world in itself; it’s these little details that elevates The Truman Show from just a passive viewing experience to something else, like you’re part of the fan club, rooting along with everyone else. It’s endlessly entertaining to watch Truman slowly peel away the layers as his whole world comes crumbling down because it all feels plausible and it all feels like it’s actually happening.

You only need to read the synopsis to see that this premise is a huge undertaking that definitely had the potential to crash and burn, but no thanks to luck, it all comes together quite brilliantly.

And the acting’s damn good, too.

Truman Burbank was a big deal for Jim Carrey. This was his turning point – his Philadelphia if you will – taking him from Fire Marshall Bill to Golden Glober in one fell swoop and he manages to pull off the role surprisingly well. He creates this wonderful Mr. Brady-gone-nuts image as he juggles hamming it up with the folk around town and flipping his shit behind closed doors without overdoing it and you end up wanting him to bust out as much as he does. While a lot of the draw to Truman does go back to his extraordinary circumstances and his gradual awareness of it all, Carrey definitely throws himself into the character, toning down a lot of what people find annoying about him and bringing out something new at the same time.

It’s always nice to see comedians make a smooth transition over to drama, especially for a guy like Carrey who was starting to be a stereotype.

But everyone’s good in this. Ed Harris is awesome as the show’s hilariously named, God-like director, Christof, Laura Linney is great as always as Truman’s wife and, whaddaya know, even a young Paul Giamatti makes an appearance. Whoopee!

It had been a long time since I first saw this, but the second viewing twelve years later has only done The Truman Show a well-deserved service. The whole idea of a man’s entire life being a TV show might have seemed like a thing of fancy back then, but our world has gotten a hell of a lot crazier and hell of a lot more public since Y2K ended up being a load of crap. Epic movies like this that have so much ambition and such grandiose ideas backing them up are rare these days, at least the good ones are, and that right there is something to be celebrated.

EDtv doesn’t have shit on this.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2010 1:58 am

    What really blows my mind about this movie, is just how prophetic it became. Not two years later did the reality TV craze begin, and everyone suddenly became fascinated by watching people go about their daily lives.

    Awesome flick!

  2. February 18, 2010 8:50 am

    Excellent review. How Jim Carrey didn’t win the Academy Award for this is beyond me.

  3. February 18, 2010 11:12 am

    Great movie with an original concept which is so rare these days. Jim Carrey gets no respect even though he has shown he is a solid dramatic actor

  4. February 18, 2010 3:34 pm

    Stupid people …. “became fascinated by watching people go about their daily lives”! The best movie I’ve ever seen Jim in was Me, Myself and Irene. The way he switched between Frank and Charlie was hilarious, and friggin skillful I think.

  5. February 18, 2010 4:46 pm

    OK… maybe I need to watch this one again because everyone raves about it and I didn’t dig it that much. I remember Jim Carrey still being a little too Jim Carrey… Man on the Moon is still where I go to justify his chops. Maybe I’ll give this another run through.

  6. February 18, 2010 7:49 pm

    The only questionable dramatic performance Carrey ever gave was The Number 23, but it was the film that did him in not his acting.

  7. February 18, 2010 9:53 pm

    yeah, Carrey topped our awarded by Globes snubbed by Oscars list a while back for this. some Italian seat-climber won the oscar

  8. February 23, 2010 6:02 pm

    One of my all time favorites. For me it’s both enjoyable on that simple surface level of just being entertained but when you start to dig into all the ideas behind it there’s a lot of interesting ideas at work.

    Strange, I’ve written at least a good 10 pages on this movie for classes but I still haven’t posted a proper review of it. That will have to change.

    • February 23, 2010 6:50 pm

      Wow, hop to it, man. Sounds like you got a lot on your mind with this one. Looking forward to it.

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