Casual Rambling
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Casual Rambling

Movie Review: The Truman Show

Rating: 4 Stars

from YouTube

There are certain actors who can do so much with so little. We typically know call these roles supporting actors. The roles where screentime and lines aren’t as abundant but the impact is as important as the leading role. A great lead without great support may isolate the lead’s performance and take away from fully immersing in the story. Vice versa, a great supporting role may overshadow the lead. When secondary characters ooze with confidence on screen, a good film truly comes to life and becomes a great film.

from imdb.com

Ed Harris will surely go down as a legendary actor. His ability to play diabolical troubled old men is second to none (see Westworld, Snowpiercer, Pollock). Every role I’ve seen Harris in he brings it. Harris was ultimately rewarded by playing yet another dastardly antagonist in The Truman Show known as Christof. Harris won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

The hindsight Oscar snub from The Truman Show would be an equally captivating performance by Jim Carrey, who was not nominated for his role as Truman Burbank. Should Carrey have taken home the Oscar that year? No. The Oscar was deservedly given to “Life is Beautiful” star, Robert Benigni. But not having Carrey on the shortlist is a borderline crime, as far as hindsight is concerned.

Carrey was tasked with an ambitious role that required a momentous effort to round out an already remarkable film in concept.

When the final scene closed, I was left with the thoughts of my all-time movie pantheon and where The Truman Show would stack up amongst some of my favorite all-time movies. Requiem for a Dream was the first film that came to mind, as it was another ambitious undertaking by the great Darren Aronofsky. I thought about other perspective shifting films like Interstellar or Nightcrawler. Like those movies, The Truman Show challenges its viewer with a lot of ‘below the surface’ meaningful material.

The Truman Show is an elite level social commentary that’s intuitively written and composed shot for shot. Director Peter Weir does an amazing job of not letting the cinematography suffer by becoming a prisoner of the reality show concept. Weir is still making a movie, not just a conceptual piece.

The Truman Show follows Truman Burbank, who lives in a miniature self-contained world where Truman is the main character of a show he doesn’t realize is being broadcast to rest of the world. Truman is the only person not aware that he’s in an artificial world created by the scheming but artistically superior director, Christof. Truman is surrounded by hundreds of actors who play their roles diligently in an attempt to convince Truman his life is just as normal as he perceives it to be. Truman was born in this world, raised in it, got a job, made a best friend, and has a wife.

Truman’s fantasy world begins to unravel when we discover that at one point, he met a girl he fell in love with at first sight. The girl attempted to convince Truman that he was in a fake world, but was quickly whisked away by a production staff member who pretended to be her father. The “father” says they’re going to Fiji, and Truman eventually becomes set on going to Fiji in an attempt to find her. To the Truman Show audience watching at home, this is simply another facet of the storyline that is Truman’s life. Most of the story is manufactured by Christof and his production team, with Truman’s reaction being the only completely organic aspect of the show.

The Truman Show does a masterful job at slowly building suspense. The film juxtaposes shots of The Truman Show to several groups of people sitting on their couch, or at their job, or at a bar, or even in their bathtub watching at home. Ironically, not only are we rooting for Truman in our own home but so are the people in the movie.

By the end, there are so many layered conversations about how you can relate The Truman Show to our lives and the world today. It has become cliche to say something was, “before its time”, but it’s a matter of fact in this case. The Truman Show is damn near a portrait of the concept that we may consider our life as one story being broadcast to the world around us. Yet, instead of our own personal self-reflection, we become enamored by those whom we can and cannot relate to and compare the similarities and differences. All of this is a concerted effort to understand ourselves, and the people around us.

Andrew Niccol is the sole writer for The Truman Show, which is my third experience watching one of his films. The other two were Gattaca and In Time, which he also directed. Both good films, but not as provoking as The Truman Show.

Unfortunately for myself, knowing The Truman Show from pop culture references and having seen the description online, I wasn’t able to experience the surprise twist that audiences may have been shocked by in ’98.

I would be remiss not to mention that outside of two amazing performances from Carrey and Harris, and a cast full of extras that are all excellent, there are two more performances I believe were crucial to the film. Noah Emmerich as Marlon played Truman’s best friend and Laura Linney as Meryl who was Truman’s wife. Emmerich and Linney were that extra glue that ultimately enhanced Carrey’s performance in their interactions with him.

The Truman Show is captivating from its opening scene to its close. When you talk about the complete movie experience from an entertainment and technical standpoint, The Truman Show captures it all. An original well-written script burgeoned by an amazing cast that is well-directed and shot every step of the way. I tend to measure a film’s greatness by its lasting impact. When a film’s legacy survives within the culture by word of mouth for a generous period of time, then you know you have something special.

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J. King

J. King

Not your average Medium rambler

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