Paranoia, existentialism and Jim Carrey.
Directed by Peter Weir
Its hard to believe that it has almost been 2 decades since The Truman Show was released. So first, a little backstory. In those 18 years, the film industry has changed quite a bit. For one, Jim Carrey was a rising star who had made a name for himself in the 90’s with whacky comedies. While those films were not critically well received, they were huge audience pleasers that sold well. The Truman Show however, was a darker turn for him, and looking back he was an unlikely choice to play Truman Burbank. Thankfully, he nailed the role in what is in my opinion, one of the real classics of the late 90’s.
The Truman Show follows the life of an ordinary salesman, Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey). He lives an idyllic, peaceful life on Seahaven Island, is well liked by his peers and is trying to start a family with his wife. That all changes when a mysterious device falls from the sky, and his world is turned upside down when he begins to suspect his entire life might actually be a reality T.V show. Without knowing who is in on it, Truman descends into paranoia in a bid to find the truth.
Ironically enough, despite its darker subject matter this is surprisingly a PG Comedy on the surface. Let that sink in. A film about a man spiraling from an existential crisis, paranoia and self doubt is a comedy, played by Jim Carrey no less! Its a strange directorial choice but an inspired one in hindsight, and really highlights why Carrey was perfect for this. There are numerous heavy themes in The Truman Show but it never forces them down your throat, or even preaches about them. Carrey handles both the light and dark material masterfully, and as a result his sympathetic portrayal of the everyday man unraveling the truth is genuinely moving.
Everything about the film follows this mantra. Sweet and beautiful on the outside, but dig a little deeper and you see the dark truth. Seahaven looks appropriately beautiful, but we often see the world through the POV lenses that stalk Truman, always reminding us that we watching him and invading his privacy. As the viewer, we have no doubt Truman’s life is a lie. He just doesn’t know it yet.
The concept is frightening to think about for the paranoid among us, but it is all the more ironic considering the abundance of reality T.V shows that exist now. The film might be 18 years old but it has not aged at all. Revisiting it today reminds me why Jim Carrey is often considered one of the most underrated actors out there. If all you have seen from him are his comedies, you are in for a real treat as this is him at his most subtle and nuanced yet as the cheerful husband with a chip on his shoulder.
There are layers within him but the film never devolves into simple melodrama or angst, and it is all the more stronger for it when the emotional scenes finally hit you. Sadly the film was robbed at the Oscars, garnering only nominations. Original one off movies like this have unfortunately become a rarity for big studios to fund, and instead we get an over saturated market of sure hit comic book adaptations.
I wont spoil any more of the film, since it really is best to experience it blind. This is easily a classic and one of my favorite films. It is moving, thought provoking and a joy to watch so i implore you to give it a shot!