“The Truman Show” is focused on redundancy and routine, yet I always notice something new every time I watch. Lurking in the the shadows of the fluorescent-lit semi-city that Truman Burbank resides in are careful details that make this film even more enriching and engrossing. But despite the newness, the constant surprise is that every audience member cares enough about Truman, a boring man they have never met, to watch his every moment without fail. That’s either a testament to the power of human connection, or a gross intrusion into privacy through digital means. Your call.
But “The Truman Show” is a wonderful experience. It’s’ Jim Carrey’s single best performance, taking us on a journey of faith and frailty, a showbiz Pinocchio in a J.C. Penney suit, except he isn’t becoming a real boy, he’s just learning his world is fake. Laura Linney is spectacular too as Burbank’s hopelessly downtrodden, relentlessly upbeat wife Meryl, a woman so perturbed and distraught by the sight of her husband that she’d kill him if there weren’t 1 million cameras watching.
And then there’s Ed Harris’ character Christof, the Kangol-waring captain of this reality show vessel. Half demi god, half Jerry Bruckheimer, Christof loves throwing down old testament wrath and love at Truman. He isn’t necessarily a mogul, as he does care more about his “art” than he does about his “business.” They’re powerful players in a shrunken world, a slew of performances so well tailored to each actor’s strengths you’d think the script was littered with their DNA.
It also helps that “The Truman Show” was directed and written very well too. It fully explains its universe, with director Peter Weir and writer Andrew Niccol giving us a full explanation when necessary, and only casual hints when not. They make us feel smart by figuring out puzzles on our own, and not ashamed to ask for their storytelling help when something may not make sense. It’s a wholly realized universe in a contained space, a fiercely funny and deeply insightful satire on the media landscape, and a strong argument that the optimal viewing habits for any man’s life should always be set to free.