America's funniest home video.
The Truman Show Stars Jim Carrey, Laura Linney and Ed
Harris Theaters Palace 12, Eastland, Woodland Hills,
Admiral Drive-in and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow, Sand Springs)
Studio Paramount Pictures Running time 104 minutes
Rated PG (mild language, adult themes) Quality FOUR
STARS (on a scale of zero to four stars)
Baby boomers were the first generation to be raised with
the seemingly benign eye of television blinking in living
rooms, overseeing our every move. We tuned in early to the
forced cheeriness of "Ozzie & Harriet" and even now we're
glued to the screen for the false conviviality of "America's
Funniest Home Videos" and the tawdry peeping-Tom-ism of
So by this time, boomers and their offspring are so
benumbed to the ubiquitousness of the tube and its glowing
netherworld of fiction and fact that the eerily funny,
archly inventive and ultimately frightening premise of "The
Truman Show" shouldn't seem all that far-fetched.
A 24-hour-a-day program that chronicles the mundane
events in the life of one unsuspecting Everyman? A show in
which all of the guy's friends, neighbors, co-workers and
even family hold Screen Actors Guild cards? A show where
hidden cameras -- in bushes, in shirt buttons, in bread boxes
-- follow the man's every move through a carefully scripted
Hey, it could happen!
And with "Twilight Zone" otherness, it happens in "The
Truman Show," the brilliant, off-kilter parable that proves
these salient points: Marshall McLuhan was right -- the
medium IS the message. Australian Peter Weir ("Gallipoli,"
"Witness" "Dead Poets Society") is a great and intelligent
director. And -- biggest surprise of all -- Jim Carrey can
And therein lies this film's biggest asset and its
biggest drawback. Because as Truman Burbank, the naive,
likable and vaguely unaware star of "The Truman Show," Carrey
turns in a beautifully restrained and richly nuanced
performance that really sells this far-out material. But
fans who railed against his dark and daring "The Cable Guy"
and insist that the comic stick to the lowdown antics of
"Ace Ventura" and "Dumb and Dumber" will most likely be put off
by the decidedly muted humor of this piece.
"The Truman Show" is a thoughtful, adult fantasy that
perfectly captures the nature of our life-in-a-fishbowl
times. It's set in the seemingly sun-kissed, idyllic town
of Seahaven (actually Seaside, Fla.), where the
irrepressibly cheerful Truman enjoys a storybook suburban
life. In a prim house with two-car garage and manicured
lawn, he lives with his Stepford wife, Meryl (Laura
Linney), a dimpled and perky former cheerleader.
Every day, he goes to his job, selling insurance; every
evening, he comes home to a wholesome dinner and his TV
Guide; every weekend, he tends his lawn and shares a few
brewskis with his lifelong pal, Marlon (Noah Emmerich).
All in all, a seemingly perfect life. But little does
Truman know that his whole world is a fraud. Seaside is
inside the largest soundstage ever constructed (one of two
Earth monoliths, along with the Great Wall of China,
visible from space). And every hour of every day, Truman's
life is being beamed to TV sets across the world, where a
rapt audience watches, making it the highest-rated show in
television history. And the dawn doesn't ever break over
Truman's world until the show's creator, the
all-controlling "televisionary" Christof (Ed Harris),
commands, "Cue the sun."
However, all is not perfect. For one thing, Truman has
begun to gaze at the pristine horizon and long for what's
beyond. He wants to be an explorer; he wants to go to Fiji.
"This will pass," his bland wife coos, as everyone around
Truman conspires to keep him in Seahaven.
Even so, cracks begin to appear in Truman's hermetic
world. One day, massive Klieg light drops from the sky and
crashes onto the street outside Truman's house. Another
time, a thunderstorm pours rain on one spot -- directly over
Truman. Also, stage directions from the TV control booth
begin to bleed into Truman's car radio, giving him an audio
glimpse into the behind-the-scenes machinations of his
Eventually, Truman's suspicions are peaked, and he
becomes more and more convinced that he must flee Seahaven
to save his very mind and soul.
Weir, working from a clever script by Andrew Niccol (who
wrote and directed "Gattaca"), plays confidently in the gray
areas between fact and fiction, raising some telling issues
about our media-saturated times and giving new dimension to
the question: does art imitate life or does life imitate
As inventive and creative as Weir's staging is, "The
Truman Show" wouldn't work without credible Truman. And
Carrey carries off the tricky role with a chipperness that
belies a deep-seeded longing for more in life than surface
perfection. Certainly, Carrey has some funny bits here and
there, but this is not just comic cutting up. It's real
comic acting, with emotional depth and psychological
dimension that makes it truly compelling.
With fascinating supporting turns by Emmerich as the
bosom buddy who manipulates Truman shamelessly, by Linney
as the pert blonde June Cleaver clone, and by Harris as the
megalomaniacal director who created Truman and believes he
has the right to destroy him, "The Truman Show" neatly pulls
off a perfect conceit for an era, when computer
communications, surveillance technology, media intrusion
and rampant voyeurism make it a story that cuts closer to
the truth than we might like to admit.