By Jason Rothman
At some time or another, in our own daydreams, many of us may have pictured our lives as a TV show, with ourselves as the star and our subconscious as the absorbed audience. Then again, maybe it’s just me. But for Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) it’s the literal truth, only he doesn’t know it. That’s the “Real World”-meets-”1984” concept behind the fictional TV-program The Truman Show , and Peter Weir’s elegant, whimsical film of the same name.
We’ve all seen the ads, so going in you pretty much know what’s going on: Truman is raised from birth in an elaborately constructed world, built to exacting detail inside a massive soundstage, filled with actors portraying his family and friends; his life videotaped 24 hours a day, his every move broadcast to living rooms around the globe -- and he’s completely unaware of it all. But the film takes it time unveiling the depth of the grand scheme and we learn along with Truman. The result is a first half that’s tense and paranoid. Once the curtain is totally lifted for the movie audience, the film turns a corner and the really interesting things start happening.
The Truman Show has a lot to say about our obsession with TV and our need to be both validated by seeing characters like ourselves on TV and our need to see reality twisted into the sort of happy, sunny sitcom existence that Truman inhabits. Ultimately though, the film is about much more than that. Truman’s life, which is planned-out and completely controlled by a higher power (in this case, a TV director) becomes a metaphor for our own lives. Though we may sometimes feel we are at the mercy of fate, our lives ruled by circumstances beyond our control, the overriding message of The Truman Show is that despite all obstacles, we control our own destiny. We can break beyond the limits imposed upon us, as Truman eventually seeks to do, once he discovers the truth.
His quest to break those barriers culminates in a dramatic sailboat ride, one that ends with of the most surreal images ever put on screen. It leaves you with plenty to think about.