Directed by Peter Weir in 1998, so much hype has been built up around The Truman Show movie, the latest Jim Carrey installment to have fun with serious themes, one is tempted to scream that the emperor has no clothes. Entertainment Weekly even deemed the movie “the year’s best movie” some seven months before New Year’s Eve. Well, luckily, the emperor is decently attired after all, but his splendor has been somewhat overrated.
The premise behind The Truman Show movie is without any doubt interesting, but it is couched in a narrative that is, at once, so contrived and so simple that it’s impossible to get excited over it. Truman Burbank (Carrey) is a 29-year-old man who doesn’t realize he has spent his whole life inside a giant TV studio. Everyone around him is an actor pretending to be his friend, his wife, his mother, or whatever. Every second of his existence is broadcast to a worldwide audience which — unexpectedly, given the vaguely futuristic set-up — seems just like any North American TV audience circa 1998.
This round-the-clock TV show is overseen by its creator, Christof (Ed Harris). In his wire-rimmed glasses and perfectly fitted beret, Christof conveys a sort of delicate artsiness, as if he embodied the tricky balancing act The Truman Show full movie must strike between grand poetic metaphor and klunky realism. For there are holes in this world — a klieg light falls from the artificial sky, a meter-wide rainstorm chases Truman around the beach, a glitch in Truman’s car radio makes him privy to Christof’s stage directions — and once Truman realizes their significance, he must try to escape.
Carrey, at least, lives up from the beginning to his end of the hype. His performance isn’t exactly Oscar-calibre, but at times there’s a stillness and a sincerity to it which indicates as-yet-untapped potential. But, ironically, he is held back by the contrivances of the film itself.
The Truman Show movie director Peter Weir, who previously helped stars like Harrison Ford (Witness) and Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society) achieve serious-actor status, does not tell a story so much as noodle a theme, and his awkward reliance on old Philip Glass tunes could distract and irritate anyone already familiar with Powaqqatsi and Anima Mundi.