THE TRUMAN SHOW
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhorne
Director: Peter Weir
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: December 30, 2008
"Say something, damn it...you're on television!"
Let me warn you right off the bat: if you haven't seen The Truman Show, then skip the remaining paragraphs of this review. I don't normally delve into film plots to the point of giving things away, but I find with this movie, there are aspects that I simply must talk about. If you want a bottom line before you go, this is one awesome, original, thought provoking film that reaches perfection in nearly every aspect, and it is worth buying.
Okay, on to the goods. No doubt, whether you've seen the film or not, you've heard this is a movie about a man who's entire life has been televised without his knowledge. That man is Truman Burbank, played to astonishing perfection by the usually manic Jim Carrey, in a performance that won him Best Actor Drama at the Golden Globes and should have (ahem!) garnered an Oscar nomination.
Truman is a likable and normal guy, with a decent job, a pretty wife (Linney), a great best friend (Emmerich), and a seemingly perfect place to live in a sunny town called Seahaven. Trouble is, strange things are beginning to happen to Truman. One morning, an object falls out of the sky and crashes onto his driveway. It looks like a movie lamp. But how can that be? He looks up and only sees blue sky.
Soon, other bizarre occurrences start taking place. He picks up a strange conversation on his car radio. Someone seems to be tracking his every move. His wife, Meryl, chatters on about household products with Madison Avenue clichés.
We learn in a flashback that Truman has a lost love...the beautiful Sylvia (McElhone). She is apprehensive about speaking to Truman, and she wears a strange button on her sweater that reads, "How will it end?" On a moonlit beach, she tries to tell him something, but she is whisked away by a "father", who tells Truman they're moving to Fiji. Since then, Truman has been quietly obsessed with leaving Seahaven and finding her in Fiji, but it's growing more and more frustrating for him. Why are all his attempts to leave the town thwarted one way or another?
Finally, we the audience are let in on the whole truth, in a masterfully done segment that briefly traces the history of the Truman Show, that began filming while he was still in the womb and never has stopped to this day. We are introduced to Christof (Harris), the creator and producer of the show. Everything that's ever happened to Truman has been carefully scripted. Everyone he knows is an actor or extra, including his own wife. Even his town is nothing more than a giant studio, where even the weather is controlled by Christof. It's ironic that in such a perfectly constructed and controlled environment, the only random element is Truman himself.
It's hard to know where to begin in praising this movie. In the first place, it's highly original in both concept and style, and very topical, given our society's voyeuristic tendencies and fascination with shows like Survivor and The Surreal Life. It's extremely well written and acted. Of particular note is Harris, who seems to view Truman not so much as his product, but as his art. And, of course, Jim Carrey, who's never been so good. He is truly a lost man in this artificial world, and our hearts go out to him.
One of my favorite lines deals with the impending story line of Truman and Meryl having a child. He quietly and sadly asks, "Why do you want to have a child with me? You can't stand me." And his pining for Sylvia, though the kind of thing that could easily come across corny, rings out honestly, perhaps because she's the closest thing to reality that's ever entered Truman's world.
But perhaps the biggest star of the film is director Weir, who skillfully crafts a masterful collection of images. In this widescreen transfer, done closer to 1.78:1 instead of 1.85:1, the additional image at the top and bottom shows the "iris" effect in the corners whenever we're seeing what the Truman Show cameras are picking up. As the film progresses, we learn these cameras (5,000 in all, according to Christof), are really everywhere, and the more we watch, the more we see all the places where they've been set throughout the town.
All this leads to Truman's eventual discovery of the truth about his life, which leads to a powerful and emotional climax, that truly celebrates the human spirit's triumph over his environment, and willing to champion his own destiny.
Peter Weir's films generally run with the theme of an individual or individuals out of place. He explores that theme beautifully in this picture, but with an ironic twist. Here, it is not Truman who's out of place, but rather, his entire world. While he considers himself more and more an outsider, it is the artificial environment around him which is ever trying to conform to fit in with him.
All in all, The Truman Show stands boldly as one of the truly great films of the nineties, and one that certainly deserved Oscar recognition in the Best Picture category.
This is a solid 1080p offering from Paramount, with crisp and natural looking colors that are better contained than on the previous DVD release. There is a touch of noticeable grain here and there in some of the darker scenes, but nothing too distracting. For the most part, the added level of detail even in simple shots like Truman at home bring out an added vibrancy to the images. Not to mention, it's better for the product placements!
The TrueHD soundtrack is quite solid...this isn't the kind of movie that makes many demands of the rear channels or the subwoofer, except for maybe the ending, but spoken words are clean and clear, and there is a fair amount of dynamic range tastefully presented here and there.
The highlight is a two part documentary "How's It Going To End?", which chronicles the making-of and the uncanny prophecy of The Truman Show. It includes new interviews with Peter Weir, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Noah Emmerich and more. There are also four deleted scenes, two trailers, two TV spots and a photo gallery.
What a concept is The Truman Show. It takes the microcosm of suburbia and expands it exponentially to something universal. It is a sociological experiment that forces us to question just how far we might be willing to go to satisfy our appetite for reality based entertainment. It ponders the age old notion of what if the world really did revolve around us, in a bold, adventurous way. It is smartly written and directed, and performed to perfection by Jim Carrey.
Ironically, Carrey would go on to portray Andy Kaufman, a man who, as a child, was convinced there was a television camera in his bedroom wall, and somebody, somewhere was always watching him perform. Who knows what Christof's The Andy Show might have been like?