A man named Truman (Jim Carrey) has lived his entire life in the same town. He has a wife, Meryl (Laura Linney), a best friend, Marlon (Noah Emmerich), a mother, Angela (Holland Taylor), and a job working in an office. His day to day activities are largely the same, he says goodbye to the neighbors the same way every day (“In case I don’t see you: Good afternoon, good evening, and good night”), and his life is pretty good.
Unfortunately, his father drowned when he was younger, and as a result, Truman hates the water — this is the reason he’s never moved, I suppose. He’s now 30 years old, an important birthday for some people. He starts to notice that his life isn’t quite the utopia he believed it to be. For instance, he hears people talking about his commute to work on the radio, and notices that people seem to appear in the same place at set times. Maybe he’s crazy, and nobody has diagnosed him? He’s not quite sure, but he knows that something is wrong.
It turns out that he’s part of an experiment. That experiment involves more than 5,000 hidden cameras, hundreds of paid actors and a giant dome. Truman lives inside of that dome, although he’s unaware of that. It turns out, Truman is part of a reality show run by a man named Christof (Ed Harris). We figure this out far earlier than Truman does. This show, which shares the same title as the film does, is the most watched show on television. It’s broadcast 24 hours each day, and features no commercials. How does it make money? Well, there’s product placement where an actor turns to the camera and advertises whatever product they’re using. Truman has had that happen his entire life, so it seems natural to him. We start to question this practice right away.
The majority of The Truman Show deals with Truman trying to determine what is real and what isn’t. Does his wife really love him? Is his mother actually his mother? Did his father really die? Are his memories actually his, or where they things he was simply told? Once he comes to the realization that he’s being filmed at every instance, his entire world view is shattered. You can see why; I’m not sure how I’d react if I found out I was living and being manipulated just for the amusement of others, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a good reaction.
I wonder how a situation like this would be reacted to in real life. Would the government let it happen? Would viewers actually tune in to see how a life would be led in such an artificial environment? I really don’t know. I don’t really see why it was the most watched show at the beginning of the film, as Truman’s life didn’t seem any more interesting than the average Joe’s. You go about living your life and then you come home and watch someone else live their boring life too?
It’s a good thing that’s not just what The Truman Show was about, because I would have been really bored. It only really gets interesting once Truman begins questioning his reality, which thankfully happens quite early on. It begins with simple questions and a little wonder, which is actually quite funny. Watching him try to figure out where cameras are hidden or attempting to change his life is hilarious, and it’s times like these when you realize why Jim Carrey was cast.
The surprise comes from the more dramatic sections — usually in the later moments of the film — where Carrey has to act with sincerity and gravitas. He does well in these scenes, which is a bonus. He gives it all for this role, and there’s a good chance you’ll be rooting for him to escape mid-way through the movie. He’s a likable person who, for better or worse, has been essentially robbed of 30 years of his life. We want to see him escape so that he can move on with his life, find a girl he truly loves (one of the extras who is promptly removed from the show) and maybe even raise a family outside of the public eye. At least, we hope for this, even if it might not all be possible.
Watching Truman trying to discover what his life has been about, while also watching every other character try to cover it up is both hilarious and compelling. It actually becomes quite thrilling by the time Truman is trying to escape, and because there’s the emotional backing from the audience, we become involved in his attempt to get away from this island paradise.
The best part of the film for me came at the very end, which involves a dialogue exchange between Harris and Carrey. Harris opens it up with “I am the creator,” before taking a brief pause which he follows with “of a television show.” That entire conversation, the final realization that Truman is given, is absolutely perfect. If ever I was to applaud this film — literally clap for it — it would be at this point. You’re drawn so deeply into the story that when this conversation takes place, you’re in awe just as much as Truman is.
The Truman Show is a great film because it gives us a character to empathize with, strong performances and some thing to think about. This review featured a lot of questions, and I mean every single one of them. When you finish watching, you might just want to watch it again. You’ll want to experience this film more than once — it’s just such a fun journey to take part in. And you do feel like you’re going along with Truman on his quest to discover the truth about his life. Definitely give The Truman Show a watch.