Not many movies have such a cultural impact as The Truman Show. The central idea of a man being born, raised and observed in a TV show, housed in a studio so big you can see it from space, but all the time without him knowing, is a great concept but one which would make any slightly paranoid individual think twice. As a concept for a movie, it is ripe with opportunity and luckily, it mines all that for loads of great detail and delivers a fantastic story.
The Truman Show builds a world which is fantastical in its central idea but makes so much sense when explained. Its a TV show so hidden cameras, product placement and the use of flashbacks and picture-in-picture, all help to show us how this would work as a channel/show. The addition of the behind the scenes crew and a selection of the viewers, is also a masterstroke as we get to see how this show has taken over people’s lives.
The secret ingredient to the movie though is Truman himself, played seriously and earnestly by Jim Carrey. This was Carrey’s first major, serious role and he knocks it out the park. In stark contrast to Ace Ventura or The Mask, he plays the dramatic moments well but also holds an innocent ignorance which means you are rooting for the character as his world, both figuratively and literally, begins to fall away around him.
Carrey is matched though with Hollywood’s solid, hidden gem in Ed Harris. Harris plays the obsessive director and creator of the show, who sees himself as Truman’s father, and he almost steals the whole movie. The dynamic between the two of them, who barely interact, is great and makes the movie compelling.
What else makes the movie so compelling is how relevant the concept still is today. Be it the 24hr nature of television, the rise and success of “reality TV” and putting the mundane lives of others on TV, or just the idea that we are constantly on-screen, be it through CCTV or other “hidden cameras.” There is so much that still resonates and if anything, has become more recognisable as you watch the film which first hit the screens at the end of the 90s.
As great, and relevant as the concept is though, it struggles with some of the aspects and you have to stretch your disbelief. Logic is thrown out the window for the service of the story and there is plenty of plot holes which could be poked through fairly easily. The fact that the film does resonate so much with aspects of entertainment today also means that it has aged. Technology and the way TV is consumed today means that there is a novelty to the way the show is aired and shown here which can jar as you watch.
This is quite easy to look past though when you come to the ending. The ending is almost iconic in cinema, with a fantastic two-hander, a decision you aren’t sure will go the way you want it to, and then a feel-good ending which ties the story together nicely, while still leaving the perfect amount of ambiguity.
Overall, The Truman Show is a still as relevant now as it was when it first hit screens in 1998. It is a great idea, a clever story and manages to build a world which fascinates. Carrey gives a great, dramatic performance and is matched by Harris. The feel-good ending ties it all together but there are times that you need to look past both the out-dated technology and clear plot-holes.
Rating – 4
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