THE TRUMAN SHOW
Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is the star of the most popular show in the history of television. For
10,909 days, it has been on the air, using 5000 cameras to show every moment in every day of the
life of one man. The public loves it -- there are Truman addicts who go to sleep with the TV on
and who have sets installed in the bathroom so they don't miss anything when they're taking a bath.
Every individual in "The Truman Show" is an actor with one important exception: the lead
character himself. For, while everyone around Truman is playing a part, he is cheerfully ignorant
about the truth. He thinks this is all real, and his obliviousness to the situation gives the program
its core appeal -- that there's nothing counterfeit about Truman. One day, however, when a former
member of the cast sneaks back onto the set with a warning for the star, Truman begins to suspect
that appearances can be deceiving.
For those who bemoan Hollywood's consistent lack of originality (as I frequently do), The
Truman Show is a welcome surprise. Over the years, there have been many satires about the
power of television, but none has taken this route. Director Peter Weir, whose past credits include
Witness, Dead Poets Society, and Fearless,
has wed this cautionary tale about media strength with a surprisingly affecting (if somewhat
uneven) drama about one man's search for the meaning of life. The only thing I wonder is whether
something this quirky will be able to find a large enough audience to justify the budget.
Paramount Pictures is clearly using The Truman Show as an example of summer
counterprogramming. The movie opens up a scant two weeks after Godzilla and
announces its intentions with the first line: "We're tired of pyrotechnics and special effectsâ€¦" But
are we? More importantly, is Jim Carrey's draw strong enough to pack theaters showing this
movie, especially when his role here is light years away from the zany character he usually plays?
And how badly will marketing The Truman Show as a comedy hurt the movie when
viewers realize that's not what it is? These questions, which lie at the heart of the picture's hope for
success, will be answered fairly quickly once it is released.
For Carrey detractors who are easily turned off by the comic's rubber-faced antics, The
Truman Show proves to be an eye-opener. Not only does Carrey remain rigidly-controlled
and reigned in, but it would be fair to call his performance both understated and effective.
Exhibiting the charm and charisma of a Tom Hanks or even a young Jimmy Stewart, Carrey
develops the sort of likable personae that a movie of this sort needs to succeed. He is ably
supported by a cast that includes Laura Linney as Truman's TV wife, Natascha McElhone as his
one true love, Noah Emmerich as his best friend, and Ed Harris as "God," the TV program's
creator and director.
Most movies today run far too long, but The Truman Show is actually too short. A
considerable amount of worthwhile material goes unexplored. (For example, one question that is
never answered is whether Truman actually has sex with his actress-wife.) I would have liked to
know something about the personal pressures faced by the actors in "The Truman Show" and more
about the incredibly complex logistics of controlling and filming the entire life of one man.
Narratively, the film is a little rough around the edges, as if a lot more was filmed than what shows
up on-screen, but, although the flow may be off a little, it's not difficult to follow what's going on.
Stylistically, The Truman Show uses an interesting approach, intercutting documentary-
like interviews and lengthy excerpts from the program (these can be identified by the elliptical
matte around the frame) with "real life" footage of the director and behind-the-scenes people. Weir
isn't the first film maker to apply this tec
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