By Marc S. Sanders
Perhaps The Truman Show directed by Peter Weir demonstrates that no matter what time period a person exists in, he/she/they will never be limited to life within a television set. Life is meant for more than just stories coming from an electric box.
Jim Carrey portrays Truman Burbank who is the star of the addicting and ratings bonanza 24/7 television program known as The Truman Show. Since his birth, Truman has been observed by the world. His parents are actors. His friends are too. Co-workers and neighbors and townsfolk as well. His wife Meryl (Laura Linney) is just an actor. It’s all fake. Yet, for Truman it’s all real. He has no idea that he is a worldwide guinea pig meant for complete observation.
Now that Truman is in his thirties, though, he is becoming wise to the fact that something doesn’t feel right. Every day, for example, is no different than the one before. It’s all routine. He kisses his wife on his way out the door. He waves to his neighbors. He always teeters on selling an insurance policy to two dweeby twin brothers. He picks up a magazine at a local stand in the center of his harbor island town. He responds positively to his boss and then he comes home and mows his lawn.
It’s only when odd occurrences appear that Truman starts to think and for the television show’s creator, Christof (Ed Harris), that’s a dangerous risk for the longevity of the program. Christof manipulates everything that happens to Truman thereby manufacturing his fear of the ocean. An episode from long ago focused on Truman’s near fatal drowning accident with his “father” who went missing. That fear keeps Truman contained and unable to explore beyond Christof’s inserted limits. His program allows for sponsorships like the six pack of beer that Truman’s best friend Marlon (Noah Emmerich) always carries or the household products that Meryl uses at “home.”
Peter Weir’s film is concerned with discovery. Efficiently speaking, he presents the script written by Andrew Niccol with a “how it works” narration as part of a fast moving first act. When we, the viewers of the film (not the viewers of the show within the film) are accustomed to Truman’s normalcy, then we perk up when we see something out of place like a set door that reveals a backstage catering counter for cast and crew. We find it amusing when the weather doesn’t work properly and it only rains directly over Truman, and nowhere else. What would Truman make of a stage lamp falling out of nowhere from a clear blue sky? Christof would not even think to imagine. Even more disturbing is when one of the program’s actors does not cooperate with the illusion, like a girl named Lauren (Natasha McElhone) when she attempts to reveal the truth to Truman as they genuinely become attracted to one another. Suddenly, “her father” whisks her over to a mysterious place called “Fiji,” and Truman becomes fixated on visiting that locale one day.
Unlike Paddy Chayefsky’s Network, I don’t consider The Truman Show to be brilliantly prophetic. Ever since the television was invented, we’ve become addicted to the images emanating from the box in the center of our living rooms. So, I guess I’m not as fascinated with this film as others have claimed. The viewers depicted in the movie like regular bar patrons, old ladies who are sewing throw pillows and blankets while watching on their sofas, and parking garage security guards working out of their enclosed booth, are hooked. They’d never even think of falling asleep or changing the channel. We are not however, and are left with observing Jim Carrey doing another silly role sprinkled with some sensitivity and an intelligence that is slowly becoming aware.
Perhaps Weir and Niccol are toying with the idea of God, and his play toy that he calls man or in this case Truman (True-Man). God has the will to control a person and keep him contained, but his invention will eventually develop a mind of its own. Intelligence breeds defiance and a want for freedom. History continues to show that. Therefore, man will build up the gumption to sail across the treacherous seas in search of what’s out there beyond what the eye can see. God will test and test and test. Man will either pass or fail, again and again.
In this age of endless reality tv programs, far be it for me to say that the set up of The Truman Show is unlikely. Yet, it still does not seem possible. It’s ridiculously over the top. (Watch me eat my words one day.) So, Peter Weir’s picture is a fantasy, I guess. However, is it a fantasy I really care about? Unlike the viewers of the program within the film, I never cared about Truman. I never cared about Christof, Truman’s antagonist. I definitely don’t care about the actors in the tv show. Sure, Niccol’s script is an idea: “What if a guy was born and raised and lived within a television show?”. However, is this an idea that is worth running through with? What’s to gain from the picture? I guess I missed a number of episodes or a couple of seasons to empathize or follow the ongoing story.
Having seen all the episodes of The Sopranos or Breaking Bad or even Cheers and The Big Bang Theory, I was there from the beginning. So, I was concerned with the outcome of Tony Soprano and Walter White and whether Sam & Diane would make it as a couple. Truman Burbank is just another Jim Carrey caricature that I just don’t care about. So, you’ll have to excuse me if I go check out what’s on the other channel instead. Maybe Jeopardy is on.
2 thoughts on “THE TRUMAN SHOW”
The set-up for The Truman Show may seem unlikely on certain levels. But to this day it’s in league with many films that make us question how much individual freedom we truly have in this world. Jim Carrey’s and Ed Harris’ final scene in the end remains timeless. Thanks for your review.
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scifimike70, you are not wrong. My review asks what’s to gain from the “The Truman Show.” I guess the best answer is what you point out. We question our individual freedoms. Only thing is, to the best of my knowledge, we are not living in a tv show.
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