Truman Burbank is a pretty regular guy. He lives in Seahaven, an island where life sure is good. He has a decent job in insurance, a pretty wife and good friends and relatives. But something feels wrong. Everything seems too well arranged. It’s as if everything revolved around him. Truman has doubts, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s absolutely right. He was created in a laboratory and adopted by TV producer Christof, who put together the ultimate reality show. 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, a network of micro-cameras follow constantly the clueless Truman. It’s been going on from his birth to this day, as Truman is about to hit 30. Every single event in his life was watched by the whole world: his first step, his first day in school, his wedding… Everything is carefully crafted, and everyone around him is actually acting. A perfect life? Maybe not, since exploring the unknown is often more enjoyable than everything being just all right…
This extraordinary film was written by Andrew Niccol, and he sure delivered a work of genius. This story has everything. On the first degree, it’s a dark comedy about the wide intrusion of TV and the media in our lives, but the film’s about so much more. It’s very rich in subtext. You could easily say that the film is an allegory of life itself. Caught in his nutshell he can’t escape, Truman starts questioning the meaning of it all. It’s not said all blunt and moralist, but deep thoughts about love, religion and death fill the film. The character of Truman is extremely well written. We really get involved in his struggle. The film is very funny, but also touching and thought provoking.
“The Truman Show” was directed by Peter Weir, who makes the script into something even more extraordinary, on all levels. Just visually, it’s a blast. The whole film is built around the TV show, so we see everything from inventively hidden cameras. Somehow like in Truffaut’s “La Nuit Américaine” (“Day for Night”), we can see what happens behind the scenes as we watch the film. We become more aware of everything from the extras to the music, because since we know that under all that lies a real human life (in the film’s universe, at least), we understand how phony movies/TV shows ultimately are. Peter Weir does an outstanding job with every single scene, up to the riveting finale. I appreciated that Weir didn’t feel the need to ruin his film by adding an unnecessary epilogue, as in countless other films.
Okay, so the film’s intelligence lies in the writing, and the brilliant direction makes it even more efficient, but the heart of it all is in the marvelous performance of Jim Carrey in the title role. Rare are films that meaty for an actor. I mean, it’s not often that everything is built around one character, who is literally on-screen during the whole picture. Plus, Truman goes through different emotions and states of mind. Given that, it might be surprising that Carrey got the part, since some more “legit” actors would seem more at their place. But that was Peter Weir’s gamble and damn, did he pull it off!
Carrey is surprisingly convincing as a man going through a nervous breakdown doubling as an existential crisis. And when he decides to try spontaneity, you can’t deny that he’s perfect for the role. Once the film’s over, it’s impossible to imagine someone else in the part. Carrey IS Truman Burbank. The film also features the always interesting Ed Harris as Christof, as well as Harry Shearer as a reporter who interviews him about his show. The rest of the cast consist of lesser known actors (Noah Emmerich, Laura Linney) who are real good at acting like in a ’50s sitcom. The sets and props also reflect that retro style. And then there’s the score, which borrows heavily from classical music and from Philip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi scores to stunning effect. All that adds up to make “The Truman Show” a very, very special film. You just can’t risk missing it!