Quick Opinion: The premise of 1998's “The Truman Show” sounds implausible on paper. Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, the star of a 24-hour-a-day reality show that broadcasts every aspect of his life — without his consent. Somehow, on screen, this idea manages to translate into one of the most inventive and thought-provoking dramas of the 1990s.
Taking a Closer Look: Director Peter Weir balances social commentary with an entertaining story that is very accessible to its audience. Jim Carrey provides a mostly down-to-earth performance that helps audiences immerse themselves in the outlandish premise. It’s nice to see Carrey reined in a bit in comparison to some of the goofier roles that defined the early part of his career. In fact, he’s really good here as he navigates through a wide range of emotional scenes (it’s surprising there was no Oscar nomination). He portrays Truman as a likable, yet slightly pathetic character. We witness his every move as he lives a sheltered, boring life that is molded for the good of the 24-hour reality television show. In the end, Truman is easy to root for as he slowly realizes the true scope of the world that surrounds him.
Our advertisement-driven culture is on full display here, along with many other insights into our media-obsessed behaviors. With every human encounter, Truman serves as a walking advertisement to the millions of viewers who watch the reality show. Even his wife (Laura Linney) proudly displays and describes new kitchen knives, cocoa brands and other household items with any chance she gets.
More than ever, today’s culture revolves around advertisements and media exposure. There are so many outlets available to connect media with people all over the world. Just think of the live stream that Shia LaBeouf provided in 2015. LaBeouf positioned a camera solely on himself in his seat at a New York movie theater. People tuned in to watch LaBeouf’s reactions as he viewed the entirety of his filmography over the course of three days. With that said, the idea behind “The Truman Show” certainly doesn’t seem as far-fetched today as it did back in 1998.
Standout Scene: As Truman drives to work, his radio cuts out and accidentally broadcasts the voices of those who are monitoring his whereabouts. Truman curiously listens to them announce the street name that he turns onto, followed up by the broadcaster’s stunned scream as Truman nearly runs over a woman in the middle of the street.
The upbeat score chimes in perfectly as Truman begins to carefully note his surroundings. He walks around in a fog, taking in the details of conversations and the movements around him. He enters a building and attempts to get on an elevator. The set piece is exposed when he gets a glimpse of the behind-the-scene production assistants who are seen sitting at a snack table in place of actual operating elevators. It’s these series of small revelations that begin to unravel the pseudo-world that he lives in. Carrey plays this scene so well, with an unwavering, genuine look of bewilderment seamlessly plastered onto his face.
Where to Watch: You can stream “The Truman Show” on Amazon Prime.
Matt McCafferty is a film critic contributor for The Sentinel and writes Rewind Reviews of movies available for streaming.