The Truman Show
Rating -

Comedy (US); 1998; Rated PG; 102 Minutes

Jim Carrey: Truman Burbank
Laura Linney: Meryl
Noah Emmerich: Marlon
Natascha McElhone: Lauren/Sylvia
Holland Taylor: Truman's Mother
Brian Delate: Kirk Burbank
Blair Slater: Young Truman
Peter Krause: Lawrence
Heidi Schanz: Vivien
Ted Raymond: Spencer
Ed Harris: Christof

Produced by Edward S. Feldman,Andrew Niccol,Lynn Pleshette, Richard Luke Rothschild, Scott Rudinand Adam Schroeder; Directed by Peter Weir; Screenwritten by Andrew Niccol

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Written by DAVID KEYES

"The Truman Show" is a standout masterpiece: for the first time in years, we are confronted with a movie that is so original and so intriguing that you wonder why no one had thought it up before. But it's not just the idea that makes this movie so deeply unique; Jim Carrey, a man who holds the record number on my list of zero star films, has earned my respect completely, giving us his performance of a lifetime here. Those who have kept up with him over the years will like "The Truman Show," and those who haven't will, I imagine, love it even more. Mr. Carrey does not simply surprise us; he enthralls us, manipulates us, and makes us feel sympathy for his confused character. He will never in a million years do such a task again, nor will director Peter Weir.

The movie asks all of us some huge questions. Suppose a man spends his life living on television and not even knowing it. Is it right to manipulate his life for public attention? Is it unethical? Is it an act of kindness to shield him from the tortures of outside world by forcing his life to unfold in a plastic society? Carrey himself might not know the right answers to these questions, but he makes it easy for us to understand the situation by playing Truman Burbank, a man whose entire life is a huge setup. He thinks he lives in a quiet, friendly town, but he actually lives inside a huge sound stage where cameras and television personnel watch his every move. Exploited as "The Truman Show," television executive Christof, played by Ed Harris, has taken the task of creating Truman's world all for television viewing, without even letting him know the truth. On the outside of his concealed world, people all over the world watch his every move, 24 hours a day. Some detest it, and some praise it. But like most things, this can't last forever, as Truman soon realizes that perhaps his life really isn't life at all.

Andrew Niccol, the writer here, has brought us a script that knows completely what it is doing. It knows how it wants to treat its characters, this situation, and it even knows what questions should be asked if such an occurrence really existed. No one knows the true answers here, but some light can finally be shed on the situation as we watch Truman's character crumble in frustration over the complicated points that television has made to keep his life concealed from the outside world.

Take this situation into thought, for example; Truman, in high school, meets an attractive young woman who, at first glance, seems to be the love of his life. He tries to get to her, but he is always stopped, either by his clumsy new girlfriend or some other meaningful event, such as cars getting in his way or a crowd of people leading him in an opposite direction.

This is one of the many situations that pushes Truman towards the notion that, perhaps, his life is a total scam. When he finally meets up with his dream girl, she reveals to him that his whole life is a television show. He doesn't understand, though. Before having a chance to explain the situation to him, she is rushed out of his life, supposedly to a country on the other side of the world.

It eventually gets to the point where Truman masquerades around all obstacles to truly learn his identity. When he is able to sail to the edge of his world, he learns the truth spoken through the television executive's voice, and then exits from the scene gracefully, likely hurting on the inside while feeling joy on the outside.

Perhaps he was glad to know who he was here, but perhaps he was also angry at the fact that he has been lied to since the day he was born. We as the audience are not sure just how he feels; we can only guess, as the script pushes him through obstacle after obstacle to keep him refrained from his true identity. Our guessing of his feelings even continues long after the film has resolved--that's how absorbing the picture truly is.

But what if one day a human's life is exploited for television entertainment? This is a question with many answers, and its one of the many complicated questions that races through our minds as we watch the movie unfold. Questions like this are not necessarily the basis for holding our attention at "The Truman Show," but they need to be asked, and what better way to ask them then here? Our world is so maniacal and so ironic that perhaps it would be of no surprise if "The Truman Show" could one day really exist.

I would not consider myself a fan of Jim Carrey's work, but he convinces us in so much passion here that he has truly verified his talent. He brings the movie, and his image, to dazzling life. "The Truman Show" is a reminder that film can be so entertaining, and a big reason why I adore film criticism.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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