Summer Movie Showdown: "The Truman Show" Review

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Truman is a man whose life is a fake one... The place he lives is in fact a big studio with hidden cameras everywhere, and all his friends and people around him are actors who play their roles in the most popular TV-series in the world: The Truman Show. Truman thinks that he is an ordinary man with an ordinary life and has no idea about how he is exploited. Until one day... he finds out everything. Starring Jim Carrey, Laura Linney and Ed Harris.
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Summer Movie Showdown: "The Truman Show" Review

-- Rating: PG
Length: 103 minutes
Release Date: June 5, 1998
Directed by: Peter Weir
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Sci-Fi

Comedy and drama genres are often a tough sell. When added to a niche such as fantasy or science fiction, they can seem downright obtuse. This is not true of "The Truman Show," however. The movie manages to incorporate the heart of each of these genres into a single cohesive whole that leaves viewers wanting more. The show itself is as deep as you'd expect from the sum of its genres, but it is likely to leave nagging questions in the minds of moviegoers hours or even days after viewing. These questions aren't an afterthought, but rather they appear to be an intentional choice made by director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol.

"The Truman Show" is based on the fictitious life of Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) and how he responds to the completely manufactured world around him. The show starts with Truman as a proverbial bird in a cage, but many small errors begin to add up as he realizes the true nature of his world. His stage wife, Meryl Burbank (Laura Linney), and all of his friends and relations are in on the secret that his entire known universe is a large television studio. The true love of his life, Lauren (Natascha McElhone), joins others in an attempt to free Truman from his captivity, but they are thwarted continually by the TV mogul named Christof (Ed Harris), who owes his success to Truman's life in front of the cameras.

Jim Carrey leads a cast of believable actors in an intentionally unbelievable setting. Truman is one of Carrey's deepest characters, and most viewers are likely to feel a real sympathy for the main character by the film's end. Laura Linney provides an excellent supporting lady in her role as the actress Hannah Gill and Hannah's character Meryl. Natascha McElhone is equally as believable as Sylvia, who plays Lauren and has unexpectedly fallen in love with Truman on a personal level. Ed Harris rounds out the cast with his often comical performance as a vainglorious villain who enjoys keeping Truman under glass.

The cinematography of the film is one of the elements that remind audience members of its science fiction pedigree. The film is shot from both the perspective of viewers watching the show itself and as a behind-the-scenes look. This dichotomy serves as the perfect backdrop for the inner message that the movie seems to deliver: the question of why do people accept something so much as truth without questioning what is or isn't real. Likewise, the soundtrack showcases some very talented Foley artists and musicians who keep the pace flowing and the gags coming nonstop on multiple levels. The film is full of vibrant lighting and effects that seem perfect for a behind-the-scenes documentary that gets out of hand, leading to the true nature of "The Truman Show" itself.

The script is one area that is questionable. From the first realization that Truman is living a lie, it becomes far too obvious that he will have to realize his surroundings are false and struggle against them. This linear plot is likely to underwhelm science fiction and drama fans who are often used to far more complicated storylines, but it may work well for those looking more for a comedic romp than a serious or satirical piece. The dialogue is very well done, considering that many of the actual actors are portraying actors themselves, and the speech of each character gives away a lot about their thoughts and desires.

Peter Weir does stunning things with the direction of the piece. He manages to coax the absolute best out of the cast in both their fictitious show roles and their performances as people outside of the television series itself. This is exceptionally impressive given the television show within a movie aspect. The movie's pacing is exceptionally quick and intense at key moments, which is likely to leave moviegoers feeling like they are accompanying Truman on his roller coaster journey of discovery. These are signs of great directorial prowess, and moviegoers aren't likely to notice the underlying morals and messages until they have time to catch their collective breath and give it serious thought.

The linear plot does not detract very much from the film overall. Fans of Jim Carrey's former comedic work and serious dramas alike are likely to enjoy "The Truman Show" on many levels. The movie provides an excellent mask through which science-fiction aficionados can explore the deeper messages without an overly heavy-handed delivery. The film is a great choice for a night out with friends or even a private viewing during a relaxing and introspective evening.

Rating 4 out of 5