The Truman Show is easily one of the most disturbing and prophetic films of my lifetime. Directed with extreme care by Peter Weir (Witness, Picnic at Hanging Rock) and written by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord of War, Simone) who always seems one step ahead of everyone else, this is a genuinely sad film about stolen identity, the loss of innocence, the understanding of evil, and how one man decides to finally think and act for himself after years of bowing to the expected norm. Jim Carrey was absolutely brilliant (and probably never better) than he was here, subverting the silly-man image he had cultivated for a few years before dropping this dramatic bombshell during the summer of 1998. The fact that The Truman Show came out in the popcorn movie season, and grossed $130 million domestic after rapturous critical response, is still one of the coolest cinematic notions I can think of. Just think about it for a moment – a movie built on ideas becoming a huge success in the mostly brain dead, CGI summer movie landscape. It seems almost too good to be true. And I’m not so sure that this movie does that sort of business if it gets released this summer, or next summer. Both of the moment and completely ahead of its time, The Truman Show sought to expose the fraudulent nature of reality television in the darkest way possible, while skewering the notion of 15 minutes of fame, and seeking to examine the fallacies of every day life. Ed Harris was hypnotic in an Oscar nominated performance as the magician behind the scenes, calling all the shots in poor Truman’s life, and the way that he truly feels that he’s his father in the final act, and most especially in those heartbreaking and liberating final scenes, still creeps me out to this day.


Peter Biziou’s tricky and stylish cinematography took on a uniquely voyeuristic aesthetic, and Weir’s decisions to set the story in a bright and sunny and antiseptic seaside town as opposed to Niccol’s originally scripted rainy and nighttime and noir-ish NYC, was a stroke of visual and thematic genius. Take some of the most frightening emotional material ever conjured up and place it inside this friendly, sterile environment that would seem inviting to anyone. Dennis Gassner’s exquisite and duplicitous production design is worthy of intense study, as it’s always working to suppress the behind-the-scenes shenanigans while giving off a radiant, scarily friendly vibe. The concluding moments of this film with Truman heading up that perfectly surreal set of steps still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and the decision on the part of the filmmakers to smash cut to black in the exact fashion that they did will always remain one of the best storytelling decisions that I can think of. The absolutely insane supporting cast was an embarrassment of riches, including the stunningly beautiful Natascha McElhone, cocky-funny Paul Giamatti, the brilliant Laura Linney, everyone’s best buddy Noah Emmerich, Harry Shearer, and Philip Baker Hall. The ensemble was in total synch in this film, allowing Carrey and Harris to totally dominate, while still providing the film with warmth and edge where needed. Producer Scott Rudin first approached Brian De Palma (and then many others) to direct before hiring Weir, who has had one of the more bizarre careers I can think of. The absolute final shot of this work of art stings with such ironic humor that it hurts to laugh. This is one of the great existential films of the 1990’s, and a film that has only gained in its masterfulness as the years have progressed.



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