The Truman Show (PG)

Directed by Peter Weir
Starring Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Natascha McElhone

Truman Burbank's life is a TV show. That is it basically, but classy director Peter Weir makes a lot more of it than that. Jim Carrey is Truman, the only real person in a 24 hour a day soap opera where all his friends and family are actors, fed their lines from Svengali like producer Christophe(Harris). The eternally sunny Seahaven where Truman lives and works is one giant tv set, and much of the film is taken up with jokes and scenes that gain their humour or poigniancy from Truman's situation. An invented childhood trauma where Truman's father died in a boating accident gived him a fear of ever leaving the island convenient for the producer, an actress(McElhone) who tried to give him a hint about what was going on as Truman's lost college love, the rather obvious product placement that the TV show must have. The whole set up is a lot of fun, and our occasional glimpses of Truman tv viewers set the show up as a world phenomena.
However, the drama begins with a movement to tell Truman the truth. Is it fair to let someone live in a fantasy world like this? Does he have the right to be free? We follow him as he begins to wonder, and tries to escape. Will Truman make it to Fiji? Will he overcome his fear of water?
It doesn't do to think about this film too closely. Would people really watch something this dull all the time? I would imagine 30 years of watching one person, no matter how funny and sweet would not be that gripping. Surely the ratings would have meant an axing some years before. I can't really see actors sticking with a job for 30 years- actors usually want to expand their talents. Plus, when would they have any time to themselves when they are on the show all the time? However, ignoring the unanswerable questions, The Truman Show is an intelligent and thought provoking film. I don't know if it is supposed to be a parable of our obsession with all things TV, or the nosy interest people take in other people's lives like in those trashy afternoon tv shows. Maybe it can be taken as a look at how the line between reality and fantasy can be blurred. However you look at it, the film is carried by an excellent central performance by Jim Carrey. It is hard to see anyone else pulling it off, and Carrey does so in his most appealing performance yet. Very little face pulling but with a childlike innocence, Carrey makes Truman a character that you can just about believe the world WOULD want to watch.
With webcameras bringing live pictures from around the world at the click of a mouse, and here in the UK, docu-dramas dominating the tv schedules, The Truman Show is a very current film. But despite that, I was a little disappointed with the pace of the film. It is only 1 hour 42 minutes, but I felt it dragged a bit. Frankly not that much happened, and while I loved the situation, I was a bit less impressed with the final 30 minutes or so. Carrey was great, nice concept, less interesting final third. 7/10

October 1998

Back to Movies page
Back to main page