The Truman Show
Reviewed by: Mark Gilman
Better than Average
Starring: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Holland Taylor, Brian Delate, Blair Slater, Peter Krause, Heidi Schanz, Ron Taylor, Don Taylor, Ted Raymond, Judy Clayton, Fritz Dominique, Angel Schmiedt, Nastassja Schmiedt, Muriel Moore, Mal Jones, Judson Vaughn, Earl Hilliard Jr., David Andrew Nash, Jim Towers, Savannah Swafford, Antoni Corone, Mario Ernesto Sanchez, John Roselius, Kade Coates, Marcia DeBonis, Sam Kitchin, Sebastian Youngblood, Dave Corey, Mark Alan Gillott, Jay Saiter, Tony Todd, Marco Rubeo, Darryl Davis, Robert Davis, R.J. Murdock, Matthew McDonough, Larry McDowell, Joseph Lucus, Logan Kirksey, Ed Harris, Paul Giamatti, Adam Tomei, Harry Shearer, Una Damon, Philip Baker Hall, John Pleshette, Philip Glass, John Pramik, O-Lan Jones, Krista Lynn Landolfi, Joe Minjares, Al Foster, Zoaunne LeRoy, Millie Slavin, Terry Camilleri, Dona Hardy, Jeanette Miller, Joel McKinnon Miller, Tom Simmons, Susan Angelo, Carly Smiga, Yuji Okumoto, Kiyoko Yamaguchi, Saemi Nakamura, Courtney Pakiz / Director: Peter Weir / Released by: Paramount Pictures
They say that sometimes life imitates art. What if art IS life? Do our lives sometimes reflect what we see on the TV screen or are TV shows actually mirror images of ourselves? These questions may not be answered in “The Truman Show”, but the Peter Weir directed (“Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “Gallipoli,” “Witness,” “Year of Living Dangerously”) film sure does afford us a dimension regarding those questions we’ve never before seen on the screen, whether it be at a multiplex or in the midst of a 27 inch vision at home.
For the first time since the film “Network” and Peter Finch’s pointed rantings cast an eye on how far TV news and programming may go to shock its audience, a movie has given us a new dimension of television and its seemingly callous nature, which tends to go to any lengths these days (Jerry Springer) to use people’s lives for ratings. But they’ve never gone as far as the Truman Show suggests. Not unlike the film Network, whose predictions of “TV death and mayhem” have come true, I somehow wouldn’t put it past TV producers today to do to a man what they have done to poor Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey).
A mere 29 years into a life he thought was his, Truman Burbank discovers that his life was a running television show, the type of docudrama only a mad TV producer could dream up. In this case the producer is Christof (Ed Harris), a beret wearing, ratings hungry bad dream for Carrey who has used his life from birth through adulthood as a means of the ultimate daily drama. From the moment he wakes up and through the night, the world eavesdrops on Truman’s life—a carefully sequenced world amidst the world’s largest sound stage bolstered by 5,000 privacy invading cameras. The only reality Truman has, is the image in his mirror.
It’s a rare occasion today when a film will make you scratch your head, ponder what we’ve become, laugh and grimace in the midst of a couple of hours. If there’s been a more thought provoking movie released in the past year, I’ve unfortunately missed it.
Australian director Weir’s work in this film, which has been over the years consistently some of the best in Hollywood, frames the camera angles as only Truman Burbank’s life could fill. Carrey’s (“Dumb and Dumber”, “The Mask”, “Liar, Liar”, “Ace Ventura”) pathetic, yet charming simpleton (after all, how could someone only realize his life was a TV show at the age of 29?) could be his best work yet as a man who no doubt would be daily pondering the outcome of WWF wrestling matches.
The film is also replete with friends, family and associates straight from Hollywood, but brought to life by some very accomplished character actors including Holland Taylor (“George of the Jungle,” “One Fine Day”) as Truman’s “mother”, Laura Linney (“Congo”, “Primal Fear”) as his central casting wife, and Noah Emmerich (“Copland”, “Beautiful Girls”) as his “best friend” Marlon. But by far the most frightening and dead-pan cartoonish depiction of a TV producer gone mad has been turned in by Harris (“Apollo 13,” “The Rock,” “The Right Stuff”) who makes Jerry Springer look like Mr. Rogers in the way he prostitutes poor Truman’s life in pursuit of ratings, money and fame.
“The Truman Show” will make us all look at “life in a box” and forever challenge images which could all potentially be “made for TV.” When “Network” was released in 1976, we all said that TV news would never go THAT far! Now that we know different, I warn you to leave “The Truman Show” with an open mind and a healthy skepticism about what Television and Hollywood could soon become. And I’m thankful this TV dramatization on film was made with a minimum of foul language and void of violence or sex to diminish what was for me, the best movie experience I’ve had this year.
I heartily recommend a viewing of the movie “The Truman Show” and only pray the TV show will not be renewed at a later date. Heaven help us.
Year of Release—1998