Fantastic Films and Where to Find Them: ‘The Truman Show’ (1998)

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“The Truman Show” starts Jim Carrey, who plays Truman Burbank, a person who lives a seemingly normal life, except for the fact that his every action is displayed live to the world for 24 hours every day. Photo courtesy of Allthetropes.org.

While “The Truman Show” was incredibly well-received after its release, earning a litany of award nominations, it isn’t often ranked as one of the best films of the ‘90s.  

It should be. 

Inspired from a 1980s Twilight Zone, “The Truman Show” stars Jim Carrey who plays Truman Burbank, a person who lives a seemingly normal life, except for the fact that his every action is displayed live to the world for 24 hours every day. 

This isn’t your typical Carrey comedy. Though it does bear some of his trademark humor, it is much more inquisitive and veers more dramatically than his other popular ‘90s films. “The Truman Show” occupies the comedy-drama genre, having many comedic bits but focused on the dramatic storyline. 

Jim Carrey starring as Truman Burbank in “The Truman Show”. Unlike many of Carrey’s more typical comedy films, “The Truman Show” occupies the comedy-drama genre, having many comedic bits, but focused on the dramatic storyline. Photo courtesy of Pelislatino.Cargas.com

One of the best parts of this film is the details in set design and in plot. Though the concept behind “The Truman Show” may seem outlandish, the film handles it as something fairly grounded in reality. There are a few moments breaking that realism, but mainly the film tries to answer the question: What would it be like if someone’s life was truly a TV show? They answer this question throughout with spectacularly crafted and executed details on specific aspects of Truman’s life and the world he lives in. This elevates the film because it makes the situation seem more plausible and realistic, immersing the audience and making the narrative more effective. 

“There are a few moments breaking that realism, but mainly the film tries to answer the question: What would it be like if someone’s life was truly a TV show? They answer this question throughout with spectacularly crafted and executed details on specific aspects of Truman’s life and the world he lives in.”

On that point, the film’s narrative structure and message is very well executed. Oftentimes films that shift in scope throughout tend to feel disconnected, but that isn’t the case with “The Truman Show.” The picture changes perspective several times throughout, but it always feels natural, enhancing the storyline effectively and delivering some fantastic moments in the process. Thematically, this film is much deeper than one would expect on first glance. It delivers interesting messages on the media, reality, self-control and perhaps even comments on some religious themes. With many fantastically written lines throughout, this film’s messages and themes will stick with you after watching. 

Another strong aspect of the picture is the acting. Carrey is a severely underrated dramatic actor. This film, along with the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” showcases Carrey’s dramatic abilities. Carrey’s character is the emotional core of the film and he delivers on that quite well, with a performance that gives the audience reason to root for his character. Laura Linney (Meryl) is given a difficult task in this film, having to play her role self-aware to a certain degree, but does a fantastic job as well. Ed Harris (Christof) is also great in this film, delivering some of the best lines of the whole picture. 

There are also several moments throughout with incredible visual composition, especially as you approach the end of the picture. They get very creative with the visuals, embracing their concept in both form and structure. 

My only gripe for the film would be that it leans a bit too heavily into its comedic aspects in the first act. Though many of those elements do pay off in the end, I would be interested to see the fully dramatic version of this film. I think with this concept they could have gone all-in on the dramatic genre, though I do understand them having elements of comedy especially with the concept and having Carrey as the lead. 

In summary, this film should be considered as one of the best of the ‘90s due to its strong narrative, thematic messages, set details and design, visuals and performances. Because of that, I consider “The Truman Show” to be a fantastic film. 

Where to Find “The Truman Show”: Streaming on Hulu 

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