September 2, 2016
To the kind individuals who actually waste their time reading my crap: If you have not seen this film, get the hell out of here, watch it, and then come back for your own good. Please.
Where to start talking about The Truman Show (1998)? Most comedy actors give drama a shot. But what kind of movie is The Truman Show exactly? Science Fiction? Drama? Mystery? Thriller? Another Jim Carrey comedy? (Most of them were the best at that time anyway). It is maybe all of them combined. Watching this film without knowing the plot is the right thing to do. And it is a challenge to the brain. 10 minutes inside the film, one starts wondering: what kind of damn Jim Carrey family comedy is this? But it starts getting crazier and we start discovering one thing after another. “It isn’t always Shakespeare but, but it’s genuine. It’s a life” Christof, an ambitious producer (of The Truman Show, more on this soon) magnificently played by 90s prolific actor Ed Harris states. Is it genuine at all? His life is such fake that he uses phrases like “That’s the whole kit and caboodle!” when he buys a damn newspaper.
We discover Truman’s life is a set up. He is the main star of a worldwide famous semi-reality TV show that everybody watches. He is on transmission 24/7. He is the only person in the show that doesn’t know his life is a show. Some viewers even sleep with the TV set on while he also sleeps. He has a fake, gaudy wife, Meryl (Laura Linney), a fake, boring best friend, Marlon (Noah Emmerich), a fake job, a fake household; he lives in a fake city, with fake people. But he has something true in his life: A love. He is deeply in love with Lauren, or Sylvia (Natascha McElhone) whom he met in “college” as we see in a flashback and was erased from the show because she tried to tell him the truth. They have to bring a fake Sylvia’s dad to tell him she is insane. I always find that arrival of the father silly and makes my laugh seriously hard for some reason. They tell him she went to live to Fiji, and he becomes obsessed with this idea of going there. He also buys girls magazines. But doesn’t get dirty with them: he cuts facial parts of women to try to build the image if Sylvia that remains forever stamped in his memory. And she still sees the show all the time with the hope of meeting with him again. All the show is set in the biggest studio set in the world, at the top of the mount of Hollywood, neighboring with the big sign.
After Day 10, 909 of the show Truman starts noticing strange things in his “perfectly-happy” life, a strange notion that people are following him, and that objects around him stop when he stops. He becomes dubious and starts to squint his surroundings. The producers notice. They get nervous. The audience notices. They get nervous. Everything is done at the production studio to bring him back to his fake reality. He pretends to go back to normal. He has a plan since he’s seen many hints about his life being irregular and has discovered there’s a patron in his everyday movement. He sets a trap, and decides to escape in a boat on a dangerous journey. The rest of the movie is a historic conclusion and the way they explain how the whole thing is a TV show is spectacular. He is the main hit in the whole world. Stadiums were filled the day he married. There are restaurants dedicated to him in which they sell Truman Show souvenirs.
Those who say this is a completely original story should think twice: The plot of the movie is highly similar to a Philip K Dick novel titled Time Out of Joint in which a man starts noticing everything around him is a set-up. And he finally finds out everything in his life is unreal. But the purposes of his fake world are different: The government uses him to avoid Earth being invaded by aliens. It’s a crazy novel just like most Philip K dick stories. And an inspiration to the film is nowhere to be seen in the credits. It has also been said that there are a couple Twilight Zone episodes similar to the film. I am shamefully not an avid Twilight Zone viewer but it is easy to believe that a story likes this draws inspirations from the classic show.
Moreover, visually, the film’s hands nearly touch cinema paradise. It is truly an original experience. The whole surprise is great, but also the way the people around him are set to act as a society (in probably my favorite shot of the movie, a speaker fails and distorts. Everyone in town seems to be disturbed by the screech), product placement is set in the TV show like those 50s phony commercials randomly inside the show (they have to profit somehow, it looks like an expensive production). There are crazy shots from strange points of view that indicate we are seeing him from the lenses of hidden cameras. Christof states in the middle of the film, while a news reporter interviews him on live TV, that there are thousands of cameras hidden in the town. There’s also a powerful scene when Marlon makes him believe what a real friend he is and we see that he is grieving inside as he delivers this artificial statements.
To choose the best Jim Carrey movie is not an easy task. Analyzing his performances one might say they most of them are similar. He plays the goofy guy who jumps and smiles and makes crazy sounds all over the place but he always delivers a great performance. Naturally, like any great comedy actor, he has a couple serious roles. Some may say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is his best performance since he went out of his comfort zone. And he certainly pulled it off. Some others say his role in Man on the Moon, as his portrayal of legendary comedian And Kaufman was his opus. But the truth is that some other great actors could have played the role in those movies. Eternal Sunshine is more than anything a great script and a great movie overall. Man on the Moon is an interesting film about an eccentric icon. However, it seems that the bemused Truman Burbank was perfectly fit for Jim Carrey. It’s hard to see another actor play Truman. Really, the way Carrey pulls off this role of a happy guy who descends into struggle is unique. The Truman Show is Jim Carrey’s best performance to this date.
And he is not the only great actor in the film, everybody makes a good job, there’s even an early role by the recently inconsistent but legendary actor Paul Giamatti. All of them directed by Peter Weir, who made many different, important movies, like the beloved Dead Poets Society (1989), the critic’s choice Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), the little gem The Last Wave (1977), the solid Master and Commander (2003), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) one I personally enjoy, The epic Gallipoli (1981), a couple projects with Harrison Ford, and more. The story was written by Andrew Niccol, who also wrote Sci-fi fan’s favorite Gattaca (1997) that was made a year before and made him gain love amongst film viewers in general (one can’t help but feel proud about this writer whose two masterpieces were made back-to-back).
The Truman Show is an experience like no other. And it is not an underrated film or anything. It pops up in many top 10s lists and it’s constantly considered one of the best films in modern times. One aspect I noticed re-watching the movie was sort of a engrossing thought. I saw this movie when I was probably fifteen. That was around ten years ago. When I watched it at that time, I innocently thought: what if my life is a TV show and everybody around me are just actors? Now seeing it with a not-so-mature but (I like to think) a more experienced eye, my question becomes: Would it be better to live in that world? Would I be happier living a happy fake life without knowing it? Would it be better than struggling in the real world? Christof warns Truman at the end that he might be back to the world and be free. But there is danger out there. The movie ends with an incredible joke. But before that, at some point in the film, Truman says: “I guess what I’m saying is life is . . . fragile.” It is better to learn how to live like a human, fragile, and open to danger, than a fake perfectly happy life. Hopefully he made it to Sylvia; like his fake wife did at their wedding, I cross my fingers.