Monday, October 17, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #76: "The Truman Show" (1998)

Movie Stats:
Released 1998 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Peter Weir
Stars - Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich

Plot Summary:
Unbeknownst to him, Truman Burbank (Carrey) has spent his whole life as the subject of a TV show that runs 24/7. Slowly, he begins to suspect that something is off about his world. Harris co-stars as Christof, the creator of the TV show; Linney as Meryl, the actress who portrays Truman’s wife; and Emmerich as Marlon, the actor who portrays Truman’s best friend.

Very minor violence; minor blue language; brief male child nudity (butt only).

Bad Stuff:
I find it a little too convenient that all these things go wrong at once (a falling set light, a malfunctioning rain spigot, etc.) in order to finally give Truman an inkling, after 20-odd years, that things aren’t as they seem.

The “romance” between Truman and Sylvia (Natascha McElhone) is ridiculously contrived.

At one point, Christof announces that he’s going to show the first consummation on live TV, by which I assume he means sex, which implies that Truman is a virgin. On the one hand, I don’t find it particularly believable that a married man in his 20s has never had sex. On the other hand, if he was having sex, that would mean that tens of millions of people would be watching this man get raped repeatedly. Ugh. Since the movie is PG, I think it would have been better not bring up the sex topic at all.

Good Stuff:
I love how deliciously f-ed up it is. The idea that they would take this man from birth and lie to and manipulate him his whole life is incredibly disturbing (especially the stuff related to his father). I always thought this was a feel-good movie, so I was pleasantly surprised by how dark it is.

The acting is really good. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Carrey, Harris, and Emmerich.

I think it’s a nice exploration of human behavior.  I don’t want to write an essay here, so I guess I’ll just say that there was a lot of complexity in the characterization of the “extras” in Truman’s life.

The Verdict:
Well, I think calling this “sci fi” is an extreme stretch, but it’s still very enjoyable. It addresses quite a few serious topics both directly (i.e. lying to and manipulating people for profit) and obliquely (i.e. how people often feel like they’re missing out on something in life). I really didn’t expect it to be so deep. I thought it would trend more on the “Jim Carrey over-the-top goofy” side. While there is some of that, there’s more of his “Eternal Sunshine” side. Solid cast and acting, with a satisfyingly open ending. All in all, an excellent film.

I give it 4.25 stars.


Patricia said...

I think the previews led you astray. I remember being similarly surprised when I saw the movie, how it was not the movie I thought it would be. But it was much better!

I always get this confused with EdTV, which I think was the same time period? Ellen DeGeneres was in that one and she cracked me up and I always have to remind myself she's not in the Truman Show.

balyien said...

Oh my gosh, I forgot all about EdTV! I don't think I ever saw it. It came out in 1999. I would say that it perhaps sought to build on the success of Truman Show, but they were probably both in development at the same time. That seems to happen a lot.