(I had fully intended for The Truman Show to be part of my original list, and I even wrote the review last year. Yet, in looking over my archives, I found that I apparently never posted it. I don’t know how I could have missed it, but it’s time to correct that oversight. Better late than never, right?)
Who would have thought from films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber that Jim Carrey could muster such a subtle, earnest performance? The Truman Show is without a doubt his finest film. I want to call it one of the most original stories of the last twenty years, but a little research revealed that it did have some forerunners, particularly a similar 1989 Twilight Zone episode entitled “Special Service.” While that episode had some perceptive themes, such as how some people are famous just because they’re on television (Snooki, Housewives, etc.), the movie improved on those themes, creating a film that both entertains and challenges our sense of paranoia and privacy. It’s also funny and pleasantly intelligent, shrewdly depicting certain rules of Truman’s world before they’re even fully explained.
Jim Carrey gets a chance to intermittently employ his trademark goofy grin and mannerisms, but he proves he can handle weightier material as he slowly discovers all is not right in his world. One of his best scenes occurs when his suspicions are first aroused, and accompanied by a mood-setting score, he wordlessly changes up his routine just to witness what will happen. Oscar nominee Ed Harris as show creator Christoff isn’t wholly unlikable as the overlord of Truman’s life, and his few scenes make it clear that he does care for Truman in a twisted way and believes that this charade is somehow in his subject’s best interest. Of the other actors, Noah Emmerich offers the most convincing deception, effortlessly earning Truman’s trust while giving little indication that he’s just an actor.
As a Christian, I might have taken issue with The Truman Show’s symbolic renunciation of its God stand-in, except that Christoff is just a stand-in. He’s a pretender, believing himself benevolent while using Truman for ratings and engaging often ridiculously obvious methods to keep him from discovering the truth. It’s a thought-provoking notion that all of our situations are pre-ordained and many groups have latched onto such concepts, but I believe God allows the multitude of human beings on this planet to choose their actions. Though He knows what will happen, He doesn’t interfere in the ways Christoff does but lets us choose, sometimes to our detriment. In addition, there’s no sacrifice on Christoff’s part, no desire for a real relationship, as God desires. While the filmmakers most likely intended Truman’s rejection of Christoff to mirror a rejection of Christ, Christoff’s actions are ultimately not God-like enough to warrant the comparison, unless you count watching from the sky. The film does challenge one’s view of God but not in an insulting or dogmatic way. I choose to perceive it as a critique, not of God, but of authoritarian frauds, posers, and maybe even governmental control freaks.
The Truman Show continues to be insightful and socially relevant in our fake reality-obsessed world and stands as Jim Carrey’s most Oscar-worthy performance. It continues to have an influence on modern films like Bolt and The Hunger Games and reinstated fears of surveillance to a post-1984 world. If only Jim Carrey would seek out more roles like this….
Best line: (Truman, as a kid in school) “I’d like to be an explorer, like the great Magellan.” (his teacher, trying to convince him to not want to leave) “Oh, you’re too late. There’s really nothing left to explore.”Rank: List-Worthy (should have been #100)
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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