My life in halls of residence isn’t the most eventful. Hardly anyone had much reason to be interested in my tastes, in films or otherwise. However, this began to change when I picked up a copy of Peter Weir’s 1998 satirical dramedy flick The Truman Show. It was at that moment that people were interested in seeing it, asking me on several occasions if they could borrow my copy, and even staging a miniature screening in one room. I was certain from this that I was in for something special, so I jumped at the first opportunity to give it a gander. A wise decision indeed.
The Truman Show follows the exploits of the titular Truman Burbank, played by Jim Carrey in a rare dramatic role of his. Truman has spent his entire life inside an artificially-created world as part of an elaborate reality TV show. It is here where he is unknowingly the only one in this gigantic dome who isn’t following a script, as he continues living out his life oblivious to the reality of his surroundings.
That last paragraph may seem like I’ve given away the plot twist, but trust me when I say that I really haven’t. They make a big thing of establishing the fact that Truman’s hometown is secretly artificial during the opening title sequence, and to be honest I feel that it is somewhat beneficial that they reveal it right at the start, because otherwise it would have made for a pretty weak setting-based twist (See M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village). The fact that they even reveal it on the DVD menu and the DVD box ought to convince viewers that they aren’t short-changed on this.
If you are going into The Truman Show expecting something along the lines of Jim Carrey’s typical zany, hyperactive roles, you might feel a little disappointed. While there are several downright hilarious moments in the film, very few of them directly involve Carrey’s performance. Conversely, certain viewers might feel comfortable with this, since Carrey is both loved and hated for the over-the-top hamminess with which he is often associated, and The Truman Show is, for the most part, a welcome break from this, with the story allowing for a genuinely heartwarming performance to shine through as the audience really begins to sympathise with Truman near the end.
Through the use of such a comprehensible premise, The Truman Show becomes an intriguing succession of interesting and, on occasion, unnerving scenarios, particularly as the illusion surrounding Truman’s life begins to gradually fall apart in various creative ways. Everything pieces together so brilliantly that the main character’s feelings transcend onto that of the audience, which I feel is a mark of good characterisation. In fact, the characterisation is so wonderfully done that, without wishing to spoil anything, the audience may even end up feeling sympathy towards the supposed villain of the story towards the conclusion.
Even if Jim Carrey falls as far away from your side of the fence as logically possible, at least give The Truman Show a chance. When past viewers of this flick say that this is unlike his other performances, they could not be closer to the truth. If you enjoy dramatic films peppered with mild comedy wrapped up in a simple yet exploitative premise, The Truman Show is essential viewing, even if only for the hilarious irony of demonising reality TV shows a year before Big Brother first aired.
The Truman Show (1998), directed by Peter Weir, is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment, Certificate PG.