A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Truman Show

June 13, 2010

The Truman Show

The truth of the matter is that I often wonder if I’m living in a Truman Show like contrivance. Maybe it’s something that all people wonder about once in a while. If so then my life must be more in the nature of some kind of social experiment, because I can’t think that there’s much about me that makes for entertaining television. Or maybe it’s more like a complex full immersion video game. And I then ponder the fact that if there are people observing my hum-drum mundane life then I have a responsibility do do something momentous with it. I should be providing an example for the people who are watching me and live up to my true potential. (My terrible purpose, since I’m just now re-reading Dune.) But instead I’m frittering my life away. At least I have this movie blog to show that I actually exist. Enjoy!

The story behind the Truman Show is that Truman Burbank is a young man who is unaware that his entire life has been a reality television program. He has been raised in an enormous studio lot set from before birth. Everybody he has ever met has been an actor or an extra. Every momentous event in his life has been a plot point orchestrated for the ratings. He’s been manipulated to keep him complacent. (The producers killed off his father to impose upon him a deathly fear of water. The travel agency in Seahaven is plastered in implausible warning posters about the dangers of air travel.)

Truman is played with a kind of trapped desperation by Jim Carrey. At times he gives into his more, well, Carreyesque tendencies, becoming more madcap than I think the character calls for, but most of the time he’s very restrained. Truman’s antics and catch-phrases seem odd coming from a supposedly normal thirty-year-old guy. I guess it can be explained away by saying that in his childhood he was trained to be eccentric so as to make for good TV. Overall it’s not as moving a performance as we saw in yesterday’s movie, but it’s still something different for Carrey.

The driving force behind everything in Truman’s life is the man behind the show: producer/director Christof, played by Ed Harris. Christof, with his god complex, (I see what you did there, writer Andrew Niccol, with the Christ thing in his name) believes that he has created the perfect world for Truman. He thinks that the reason Truman truly hasn’t allowed himself to realize the nature of his confinement is that he wants to accept the world he’s living in. But Truman begins to suspect that something is wrong with his world. Stage lights plummet out of the clear blue sky. The radio in his car picks up stage directions. He begins to notice that there’s something odd about the people around him.

It’s a cleverly put together film. The opening credits for the movie introduce “Truman Burbank as himself,” as if you are simply watching the show itself. Everything is shown from the point of view of the thousands of cameras in the artificial structure that is Truman’s world. It isn’t until about half way through the film that you begin to see the world outside the dome and the people who are caught up in watching and obsessing about the show. Which is my favorite part of the entire film – seeing how Truman’s life and actions touch all these devoted fans and viewers who are caught up in watching the show.

Everything leads up to a final desperate confrontation between Truman and the man who has been father/god to him for his whole life, even if he didn’t know it. And, yes, there is a lot of resonance to this story of a guy who actually finds an altogether unique way to escape from his mundane life. Maybe it can be viewed as some kind of midlife crisis movie, or maybe it’s something about taking control of your own destiny and becoming a responsible adult. There’s a lot of cheese to this movie, (what with Jim Carrey hardly able to contain his inner Ace Ventura) but also some kindness and truth, and I still enjoy it. Sometimes I, like pretty much everyone I think, want to escape my life like Truman does.

June 13, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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