The Truman Show

1998, Movie, PG, 102 mins


A cool indictment of television's near-irresistible pandering to the inner peeping tom. Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives in preternaturally picturesque Seahaven, an oasis of friendly neighbors and natural beauty, but finds himself increasingly troubled by the vague feeling that something's going on behind his back. He's more right than he can imagine. Beneath the picket-fence facade of his life lies an almost incomprehensible secret to which everyone but Truman is privy: It's all a carefully calculated, commodified spectacle. Seahaven is a massive set studded with hidden cameras; the friends and neighbors are actors; and the whole thing is on the air 24 hours a day, the world over. Truman has literally grown up on television, the unwitting star of a twisted, epic episode of Candid Camera. That's pretty much it for both premise and plot, and as a premise it's brilliant, in a Twilight Zone-ish way and with all due respect to 30-year-old sci-fi trifle The Bubble, which pioneered the image of a human habitrail. TV has, after all, already brought us prefab-reality programming like The Real World and Cops, graduated generations of neurotic former-child stars whose real and sitcom lives intertwined in destructive and troubling ways, and spawned a nation of voyeuristic slugs addicted to entertaining themselves to death. As plot it's a little thin, especially when you already know the premise -- a bind as hard to wiggle out of in a review as in an ad campaign. The performances are uniformly pitch-perfect, though fans of Carrey's manic antics will probably find him perplexingly humorless, and Weir courageously resists at every turn the temptation to make it big: The laughs are modest and uncomfortable, the "Free Truman" movement subplot is truncated and Truman's emancipation prefigures only an uncertain future. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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