Implausible and Nightmarish
Back in 1998, Jim Carrey appeared in The Truman Show, an implausible sci-fi morality tale that showcased his ability to do drama as well as comedy. Playing Truman Burbank, a man who discovers his entire life has been a television program, Carrey displayed a remarkable range and depth of emotion that surprised many of his many fans. He convinces the audience of Truman’s innocence and vulnerability in the early part of the movie as well as of his suspicions, anger, and bravery later on. In each case, Carrey won viewers over – even those expecting the wildly comic antics of Ace Ventura.
When this gifted comedian accepted his 1997 MTV Award for the Best Comic Performance of the Year (for Liar, Liar), he thanked his fans by saying, “They have always supported my comedies, but they don’t quite know how to take me in drama.” Well, practically everyone accepted his dramatic work in The Truman Show. He almost takes your breath away in this serious role.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the movie itself. By trying too hard to be profound about the evils of television, it stretches this theme beyond the breaking point. Yes, most Americans probably spend an unhealthy amount of time watching TV. Yes, when hooked on a series, they sometimes take more interest in the characters than in members of their own families. (Be honest. Just think about your favorite soap opera or prime time TV show.) But would a corporation be allowed to buy a child and televise his activities for 24 hours a day without his knowledge? And, if the child grew up to be as popular as Truman Burbank, wouldn’t his fans rebel at the inhumanity of such treatment. You betcha!
I realize most critics and moviegoers fell in love with The Truman Show. But I can’t help thinking that other films have dealt with television’s commercialism and invasion of privacy more effectively. Albert Brooks’ Real Life is the best example.
Nevertheless, I applaud director Peter Weir and screenwriter Andrew Niccol for telling a nightmarish story without using obscene language, excessive violence or explicit sex. That counted for something back in 1998 -- and still does in 2013.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “PG” by MPAA.)