(Check out the list so far)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A man goes through life and thinks he’s being watched and for once, it’s not a conspiracy.
Why It’s on the List: This is probably my favorite Jim Carrey performance ever and the one he should have one an Oscar for. He had one of the best years an actor could ever have in 1994 when Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask all came out. Although he appeared in other films, this felt like his first real attempt to move beyond his cartoonish self and into a full-fledged dramatic performer. We do get to see some of his insanity, but we also see heart and care. The scene he has with Sylvia in the library is fantastic romantic lead level acting.
I was fascinated by the idea of this movie in 1998 because it seemed like fiction. Could this actually happen? It may not have yet, but just a year after Survivor premiered on CBS and reality television has consumed many of our lives. Some are more competition. Others seem more concerned about spilling the tea (so to speak), but we are at a point when cameras are always on. We can film ourselves and post directly on social media accounts. We can film others for the purposes of shaming them because they’re racist jerks. The Truman Show is an exaggeration, a parable. Pull at the threads and the movie not necessarily hold up. The film does a good enough job making it believable by explaining just enough. I fear what modern screenwriters would do is this were a 10-hour Netflix series. This was perfect at just over 90 minutes. We got to know Truman and in both the actual narrative and metanarrative, he became the hero of his own story.
*Christof gaslighting Sylvia is intentional within the narrative, but I think it’s interesting to point out.
*I’m glad we got to know Sylvia a little bit.
*The big one…a corporation adopts an “unwanted child” and unwillingly puts him on television for the first 30 years of his life. They generate drama and create legitimate trauma and PTSD for this person. They create an idealized version of this small town that is essentially 1950s America (at least there are some Black people though! I counted like five) and try to generate love interests. Then there is Cristof wanting to see the first conception on television. Is he implying he wants this show to become porn for just a few minutes, and you’re telling me Truman has never done anything beyond a kiss with his wife? Honestly, this corporation would be lucky if Truman left and went to find Sylvia because the first thing he should find in walking outside that door is a parade of lawyers ready to sue this company for whatever amount plus another billion. The direct sequel to this movie is Truman becoming the world’s richest man after winning the biggest lawsuit in the history of the world and multiple teams of lawyers getting to retire because of what they collect on the settlement.
MVP: As I mentioned before, the plot isn’t airtight, but the script is pretty great in the way it shows us the world from Truman’s perspective for the first hour and then lets us get a sense of what things are like on the outside. Andrew Niccol wrote this and Gattica but has been erratic in his output since. Nonetheless, we get a really great sense of who Truman is through the literal lenses spread throughout the time. We also get to see Chrisof (and his gaslighting ways) for a much shorter amount of time, but the interview he does reveals so much. Peter Weir does a solid job of rendering the world and showing off how synchronous everything is, but a movie like this must have a good screenplay to have any credibility.
Best Performance: I almost wonder if we’ve underrated Jim Carrey as an actor. I think we want him to be Ace Ventura or Lloyd, and although this movie made a good amount of money, so many of Carrey’s other more serious films have not fared as well. While I enjoyed Carrey as Dr. Robotnik for bringing back that 90s feeling, I’ve always seen some Tom Hanks quality in him, especially in the romantic scenes and at the end.*
*To be clear, he’s not Tom Hanks. He’s not nearly as approachable of a person or someone who I think America will need a day of mourning for upon his death.
Best Quote: “We’ve become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.” -Christof
Is there a sequel? There hasn’t but Black Mirror has certainly tackled some of these issues similarly.