The Truman Show movie poster
Paramount
1998
PG

“Somebody help me, I’m being spontaneous!”

  • Truman Burbank is a man whose life is a nonstop TV show. Truman doesn’t realize that his quaint hometown is a giant studio set run by visionary producer/director/creator, that folks living ans working there are Hollywood actors, that even his incessantly bubbly wife is a contract player. Gradually, Truman gets wise. And what he does about his discovery will have you laughing, crying and cheering like few film stories ever have.

Looking at Jim Carrey’s filmography list on Wikipedia, it looks like 1998’s The Truman Show was perhaps his first staring role in a movie that wasn’t a wacky comedy or a superhero franchise. Considering the previous film he was in at the time was the woefully underrated The Cable Guy bombed pretty hard in the theaters and made a considerable amount of his fan base go, “wha…huh?”, you would think he would have played it safe and went back to the tried-and-true formula. Instead, his follow-u to The Cable Guy was the dramady The Truman Show.

The concept of a reality show where we derived entertainment by watching someone’s life being filmed constantly is nothing new. There was the 1973 PBS series An American Family, showing a nuclear family going through a divorce in 12 episodes. A UK version called The Family aired in 1974. Of course, the most famous ones would have been Cops and MTV’s The Real World. Which is to say, back when The Truman Show was released, reality television like this wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now.

Even then, the stars of those reality shows are very much aware their entire lives are being broadcast. The concept with The Truman Show has the titular character’s entire life–from the moment of birth–being broadcast for all to see, when everyone he has ever known in his life–his family, friends, coworkers, the citizens in the town he has lived in all of his life–merely actors in the grand ongoing televised saga that is Truman’s life. Even the town of Seahaven Island is an enormous Hollywood set, with technological special effects to simulate day-to-day existence within Truman’s simulated reality. Then one day, a spotlight falls from the sky. From there, it’s a domino effect that leads to the Mother of all Existential Crisis-es as Truman slowly discovers the truth of his *ahem* reality.

I have to admit that The Truman Show is a rather thought-provoking movie. It is one of those rare movies that seems to fire on all cylinders, and manages to offer many things to chew on. A pointed commentary on American television culture, an exploration of existentialism, a lighthearted science fiction fantasy that may have taken its inspiration from a 1980s Twilight Zone episode. There’s a psychological syndrome named after the movie, not to mention the fact that you could argue that The Truman Show was eerily prophetic in nature, due to the explosion of reality television in the Aughts.

But, is The Truman Show a good movie? I would say, yes. Yes, it is. I would say that it’s probably one of my favorite Top Ten non-Horror movies of all time. You talk about a list that’s in constant quantum flux. But, yeah, if you haven’t seen The Truman Show as of yet, do yourself a favor and give it a watch. And try not to get too paranoid the next time you’re brushing your teeth in the morning.