I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Truman Show

June 5, 1998

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey, THE DEAD POOL, PINK CADILLAC) thinks he just enjoys a normal white picket fence type life mowing the lawn and saying hello to the neighbors and putting on a suit to go work at the insurance company and all that type of shit. He has no idea that his idyllic town of Seahaven is actually a set built on a soundstage so huge it can be seen from space, or that everyone around him, from the random cars that drive past him to his own wife Meryl (Laura Linney, ABSOLUTE POWER, MYSTIC RIVER, SULLY), are hired actors, in on the deception. Literally everything in his life is staged for his benefit.

It sounds like a Twilight Zone premise, and it kind of is: there’s an episode of the ’80s incarnation of the show that’s pretty similar. In “Special Service,” written by J. Michael Straczynski (CHANGELING), David Naughton is shaving one morning when the bathroom mirror falls off the wall and he sees a camera behind it. A serviceman shows up and tries to make excuses but soon has to admit to him that his life is a popular TV show. He seems to be allowed to live in the regular world, though, and the people around him are just cool about keeping the secret until the cat’s out of the bag, at which point he gets mobbed by screaming women. He also got to grow up normal before they started doing this to him five years ago.

Truman has it worse. He’s the first human baby adopted by a corporation (and they say that like it’s a milestone to be proud of). He was born live on television, and his whole life has been broadcast to millions of adoring fans worldwide. The movie lets us in on some of this right at the beginning, tells us The Truman Show is the smash hit creation of the reclusive beret-wearing genius Christof (Ed Harris, ABSOLUTE POWER), and then it throws us into Truman’s artificial life during a crisis period when he keeps almost figuring it out. We watch his reactions to little hints that his entire existence is a lie, little slip-ups that puncture the illusion. A light (hand-labelled with the name of a star) falls from the sky and lands in the street right next to him. A technical problem causes his car radio to broadcast a voice that seems to be describing his movements.

We watch Truman’s “am I crazy?” befuddlement at these things and his skepticism as the production scrambles to cover them up (for example a radio broadcast mentions a damaged plane flying over Seahaven shedding parts).

As he becomes more suspicious, the limits of Christof’s world become more apparent. Truman tests them by suddenly running into a random building that he usually passes. There are people walking around inside as if doing their business, but Truman sees that the elevator doors open to a room, not an elevator, right before he gets yanked out by security. Later Meryl, a nurse, tells him she’s helping with surgery for the victims of a horrific elevator accident. The more everybody tries to cover things up the more paranoid it makes Truman because it becomes obvious that they’re all in on it.

It’s shot on film, but often with angles that imitate various hidden camera lenses and vantage points. There’s an oppressive sense of surveillance, especially in a long shot from the distance following him in public as he’s clearly trying to be anonymous. As in “Secret Service” there’s a camera behind his bathroom mirror, and he puts on a little show for it, drawing on the surface with soap, doing funny voices, leaving Christof’s crew (and us) wondering whether he’s just being a dork or whether he’s onto them.

Sometimes we see the home audience watching The Truman Show, discussing it. So we know that they too are getting to see the flashbacks. They explain the backstory to us, the movie audience, and act as “previously on The Truman Show” reminders for them, the TV audience. That’s how we learn about the tragic drowning of his supposed father, which we later learn was staged to give him a fear of water so he’d stop trying to leave home.

It’s more than halfway through, almost an hour in, when we start to see the actual behind-the-scenes operation of the show. Harry Shearer (arguably as his character from GODZILLA) interviews Christof in his own Watch What Happens/Talking Dead/Stanley-Tucci-in-HUNGER-GAMES type deal discussing the big plot twist on the show and hints about what’s coming up. “Of course we all know how jealously you guard your privacy,” the interviewer says, not seeming to notice the irony. Christof lives in the control room inside the artificial moon in the artificial sky, where some guys including Paul Giamatti (PAYCHECK) watch all the feeds, direct the show, sometimes communicate with or feed lines to the actors over headsets. They all seem to be very protective of him, cherishing him, except for his rights as a human being. Christof caresses the image of his face on a giant screen as he sleeps.

Some of the music is (very noticeably) by Philip Glass (POWAQQATSI), so it’s a good joke when we see inside the control room and Glass himself is there watching the big screen and playing the keyboard live. The German composer Burkhard von Dallwitz (THE WAY BACK, Wolf Creek TV series) is credited for the score, but I didn’t really pick up if Glass just did the stuff that is explicitly scoring the TV show or if they just kind of alternate between the two artists or if they worked together like Glass and Marco Beltrami did on FANTASTIC FOUR (2015) or what.

There’s alot to wonder about how this show works. I’m especially curious about Truman’s best pal Marlon (Noah Emmerich, WINDTALKERS), who miraculously shows up with a six-pack any time Truman needs cheering up or babysitting. Marlon has grown up with Truman, which probly explains why he seems like he might genuinely care about him. But how the fuck did they get child actors who wouldn’t spoil this secret? This is some crazy child actor discipline far beyond any Fanning or Culkin. And it must really mess with his head to have spent his whole life doing this.

I sure hope they have accredited schools here with real teachers, because it doesn’t seem fair to have actors sit in classes all day with Truman and not get a diploma out of it.

I’m willing to accept that the gigantic operation is somehow funded by the product placement (characters often recommend a specific brand to Truman, or talk about how much they love a kitchen tool they just bought, or hold their beer carefully so the label shows on camera) and some merchandising. But the popularity of the show seems a little overblown to me, at least when they’re showing what seems to be a Truman Show themed bar where everyone watches together wearing Truman Show branded clothing. How could audiences become so addicted to something that goes out of its way to be routine and uneventful, where it’s treated as an emergency when something unexpected happens?

I guess it made more sense in 1998 when live webcam experiments were new and the show Big Brother was a year away and we had more excuses to be curious about this kind of voyeurism. But The Truman Show is in a way the opposite of those things because it’s not even intended to seem like real life. Instead it’s an idealized late ’50s, early ’60s style small town America. I tell you, it took that generation a long time to stop being bitter about Leave It to Beaver selling them a bill of goods. Christof pitches the show as a form of escapism, a fantasy about the world as it should be, in his view a more sane world than the one outside the dome.

In the sense of predicting Big Brother and exploring reality television when that pretty much just meant MTV’s The Real World, THE TRUMAN SHOW was a very current 1998 statement. But in retrospect it was entirely clueless as a media satire. Truman is an unwitting victim. He hasn’t been given a choice, he’s unaware and being lied to and exploited, his privacy is being violated. Everyone else in the world knows it’s fake. In the actual reality TV that came to pass it’s the exact opposite: people fight to get on it, yearning for fame, wanting to be seen by everyone, and if anyone’s being tricked or manipulated it’s the audience, by misleading editing or staged confrontations or just by promoting all the worst qualities of humans in the name of drama and eventful reunion specials.

And then of course there’s the budget – The Truman Show is one of the most massive efforts in human history, requiring a structure they compare to The Great Wall of China. Reality tv is notorious as a method for networks to make a bunch of popular shows at a fraction of the cost of one actual show.

At the time, THE TRUMAN SHOW had the air of smart satire. If they were on the mark about anything, though, it must’ve been some extreme Japanese prank show that didn’t yet exist and maybe got the idea from the movie.

But at the more humble task of coming up with a crazy, surreal scenario, building an interesting world for it to happen in and telling the story well, THE TRUMAN SHOW definitely comes through. I almost said “paranoid scenario,” but I don’t think that’s quite what it is, since it never tells us to believe in the sugar-coated topping. It aligns us with the Truman Show viewers instead of Truman himself. Like them we watch and root for him to figure it out, to accomplish his dream of going somewhere new, to escape. It’s like THX 1138 as painted by Normal Rockwell.

Even though we know the trick, it’s exciting to see Christof’s beautiful illusion crumble under the pressure of Truman’s yearning. When he manages to hide from the cameras – disappearing from the movie for an invigorating privacy binge – reality is suspended. The moon turns into a spotlight. Daylight arrives abruptly in the middle of the night. The whole town becomes a search team, then they stand frozen in “first positions.” It’s like a cross between a sci-fi dystopia and the lights turning on while you’re on a ride at Disneyland. The best is when the mast of Truman’s sailboat pierces the horizon. He has come to the end.

At the end THAT MEANS SPOILER, when he’s about to escape, I found it hard to believe that the cross section of viewers they’re showing were so happy about it. Don’t they realize that this show they’ve been obsessed with 24-7 for thirty plus years is about to suddenly end? I wondered. But a pair of security guards watching the show cheer for Truman, then get another piece of pizza, then ask “What else is on? Where’s the TV Guide?” And that’s pretty powerful. This massive effort, this unprecedented exploitation, all this and then two seconds after it ends everybody moves on to the next thing. Damn.

Other than its take on reality television and the photo mosaic movie poster, THE TRUMAN SHOW could easily be from well before or well after 1998. Because it takes place almost entirely on this soundstage designed to evoke early sixties suburban pleasantness it’s devoid of dated references. There are no Third Eye Blind songs. But it is helpful to remember specifically when it was made, because this is exactly the point when Carrey seemed cemented as a comedy superstar and now was trying to be something more (a career trajectory everyone compared to Robin Williams).

I remember when ACE VENTURA came out and was a huge hit and I didn’t see it because “wait a minute, the white guy from In Living Color?” And then I saw THE MASK and later I saw DUMB AND DUMBER and the world was so in love with him by then that to this very day he has evaded justice for BATMAN FOREVER, where his performance was so ground-breakingly terrible that I feel like I can still blame him even though everything else in the movie was garbage and there was no way anyone could’ve saved it other than by sending everyone home and saying sorry fellas, after we found out what you were doing we decided we’re not in the Batman business anymore, it’s just not worth it.

It was big news when Carrey did THE CABLE GUY because he got paid $20 million, a record at the time that made people openly ridicule the idea of him or any actor being worthy of that kind of pay. And then the movie was more dark and uncomfortable than his previous ones (and honestly a more successful satire of television obsession than this is) and it didn’t do as well. I kinda think the darkness and the failure of the movie were both blown out of proportion because people were mad that he got paid so much. But he may have saved his career by saying “okay, fine. LIAR LIAR I guess. Whatever makes you people happy.”

It’s not like THE TRUMAN SHOW is CLEAN AND SOBER or something. He’s playing a dork who has grown up in manufactured wholesomeness, so he still moves in goofy ways, does an exaggerated smile, hoists his butt up in the air while on all fours doing yardwork, has a forced chuckle when he says the same dumb jokes to people every day. But he’s privately sad and lost and as he starts to suspect what’s going on he unravels and gets a little scary. It is a dramatic performance, or at least the most serious he’d been since the 1992 TV movie DOING TIME ON MAPLE DRIVE. I think other actors could’ve worked in the role, but it would’ve been an entirely different character. Carrey makes him kind of this manchild play-acting as an adult. He doesn’t know how to be a real grown up or husband because he’s never been in the real world, never had a real relationship. He’s uncomfortable in his skin, probly always felt like a phony but never in a million years could’ve guessed the reason why.

I also want to mention that Giamatti being in this pretty small but important role is very 1998 because the year before he’d been kind of an unexpected sensation as “Pig Vomit” in PRIVATE PARTS, so everybody wanted to hire him for everything and all the sudden this summer he was in this, DOCTOR DOLITTLE, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and THE NEGOTIATOR.

It had been five years since Australian director Peter Weir (PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK) had directed FEARLESS and it would be another five before he came back with MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD. He was nominated for best director at the Oscars and Golden Globes (Spielberg won for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) and he won the BAFTA. Harris also got an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor (James Coburn won for AFFLICTION) and screenwriter Andrew Niccol (GATTACA, THE TERMINAL) for best original screenplay (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE won).

I remember seeing the movie with a crowd that seemed disappointed it was “weird” and not exactly a comedy, but in general it didn’t receive the same disrespect CABLE GUY did. It was well reviewed, including four stars from Roger Ebert, and opened at #1 considerably above A PERFECT MURDER. It made more than $200 million over its $60 million budget, making it an unusual kind of summer hit: the kind that has Philip Glass music.

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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2018 at 10:13 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

38 Responses to “The Truman Show”

  1. You may be right that the television satire missed the mark. But this movie absolutely holds up as a hero’s journey tale. It is such an awesomely cathartic moment when he opens the door and steps into the great unknown.

    I feel like Peter Weir totally could have ended up being considered one of the all-time greats, in the same vein as Spielberg and Zemeckis. A guy who makes diverse, challenging, but still crowd-pleasing blockbusters. I think he just wasn’t prolific enough. Gallipoli, Master and Commander, and Truman Show stack up against any other director’s best work.

  2. I love that movie. Yes, I agree that the satire and the overall voyeurism message is a bit dated and the idea, that someone would start such a huge project in the 60s and get through with it for decades, is even for the more naive time of 1998 complete bullshit, but as feature film length TWILIGHT ZONE (or BLACK MIRROR) episode, it works damn fucking great!

    After all these years it’s still a unique and extremely watchable genre mix of dramedy and paranoia thriller, all played super light hearted, without destroying the gravity of the story. And Carrey is great! There is a reason why he had some serious Oscar buzz back then and it was a minor scandal when he wasn’t even nominated.

    —–

    Okay, sorry for going full M_x La___s for a moment, but here is the plot for a TRUMAN SHOW sequel, that I came up with a few years ago:

    Truman (and his girlfriend) managed to disappear and live off the grid completely. They don’t appear in this story at all, other than in a quick piece of exposition, that tells us why they aren’t in this movie. Cristof never attempted a second “season”, but because of some legal loopholes, someone else was able to buy the whole project and now gives the world another Truman.

    Truman 2 is currently 15 years old and despite being raised by loving parents, a bit of a jerk. Of course everybody is willing to blame puberty, although he had some anger issues from earliest childhood on. (But that only made him more popular in the time of internet memes.) Recently his behaviour has been a bit more troubling. He not just becomes the most feared school bully, he also kidnapped a neighbour’s dog and killed it almost life on camera. (The new showrunner cut away quickly and started a huge cover up, but of course not every audience member was fooled and it becomes a popular conspiracy theory.)

    And you can guess where it goes from there: Truman 2 becomes obsessed with a girl from school for all the wrong reasons and the audience by now realizes that they are most likely watching the birth of a serial killer live on air. Now Christof would’ve probably pulled the plug by then, but the new guy has other priorities. He is not the kind of asshole who would let a murder happen under his watch, but he also knows that whatever is gonna happen that night, is ratings gold, so he now tries to a.) save the girl’s life, but b.) without letting her know that she is in danger (because realism) while he c.) also tries to not let Truman 2 know that they are always one step ahead of him, thanks to the cameras everywhere. (Because if he knows, the show is over.)

  3. In my opinion, The Cable Guy is the single most underrated movie that ever existed. It’s brilliant.

  4. THE TRUMAN SHOW 2: THE GRITTENING sounds like it has potential. I think the better angle would be if we find out that the showrunner has been grooming Tru2 to be a psycho since birth, rather than just being an opportunity. You could get into questions of nature vs nurture, the gritty reboot phenomenon, pop culture’s trend toward unpleasantness, the fact that psychos already think they’re the only real person in the world, a whole bunch of stuff. There could be a young, idealistic “staff writer” who’d been raised on the phony wholesomeness of Truman 1 and figures it all out and tries to do something, but it’s too late.

    The twist would be when Tru2 finally fulfills his destiny and becomes a murderer live on TV. Everybody gets angry and goes online to complain about how they fucked up the franchise. “NOT MY TRUMAN!!!1!!!1!!”

    It ends with a commercial for the upcoming TRUMAN 3, which is just a remake of TRUMAN 1 with a Carrey lookalike.

  5. I always really liked this one but the one thing I always thought rang false was Christof. It just felt so on the nose to me that here’s this guy who airs this other’s guy’s life but actually he’s a total hermit who doesn’t want anyone to know about HIS life. Definitely wasn’t a deal breaker but I always felt like mentioning that it felt good ‘ol phoney Hollywood. Then years later we got Julian Assange and several other reclusive assholes who thought it was their job and right to expose any and everybody’s dirty laundry and life stories and I suddenly realized how disturbingly spot on Ed Harris’ Christof was.

  6. Also, I’ve always wondered what the station did when Truman was jerkin’ it. Did they show it? Blur out strategic areas? Cut to other family members?

  7. THE TRUMAN SHOW 2: THE GRITTENING SPOILER: Once rescued and in the control room, Truman 2’s girlfriend retaliates for being put in harm’s way by giving an eye-opening speech about how we’re all Trumans now because are lives are manipulated by his actions, and then suddenly attacks and kills Christof! With his own camera or something. Philip Glass never stops playing.

    I like THE TRUMAN SHOW. I like the hidden camera tricks and product placements. I’m glad Vern pointed out the mirror scene, because that is a really cool and unique idea to me: a fake out for the audience that’s not intentional (by Truman).

  8. I always thought this was less a media satire and more a religious one, where Truman (true man) learns to break from the religious construct (created by “Christof” for fucks sake), takes charge of his own destiny and moves on.

    As an allegory it tends to hold up. Christof the hermit who controls all and covets his own isolation, the cathartic religious symbolism of a storm on a sea, resurrection of his Dad, etc. It’s a very angry film if viewed along those lines.

  9. Maybe this wasn’t exactly prescient in predicting how the reality tv boom would play out but then again maybe the only thing it got glaringly wrong was how complicit we would be in sharing our every move and mood with the outside world; how willing we would be to give ourselves over to social media and have carefully curated aspects of our lives broadcast to the world for everyone to see.

    And as an existential tale about facing identity crisis, and the journey someone undertakes to shrug off social archetypes and the labels foisted upon us that come to define us, this has lots of interesting things to show us. Also the production design and music is fantastic.

  10. Niccol has said that the one thing he got wrong was the idea that people would NOT want to be on television. He wrote it as a cautionary tale and it turned out everybody wanted to have their own Truman Show.

    I always thought there could have been a fourth act where we see Truman try to live in the real world that’s not catered to him. He’d have no preparation for this, just dropped into real life as a middle-aged man.

    I get that the point is we don’t get to know what happens to him after he leaves the studio, and that ending on viewers looking for something else to watch is poignant. But it is the big question the film left me with, and at some 98 minutes there was certainly room to explore it.

  11. I actually wondered the same thing as REDACTED, and I consider it not just a plot hole, but part of the fundamental problem I have always had with this movie: it just doesn’t make sense. There’s no way to make this scenario add up in your head, which is a problem, because like half the movie is dedicated to revealing how this conceit works. But it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t. I mean, he’s supposedly on the air 24-7, but shit, for at least 9 hours every day he’s sleeping, and then a lot of time is spent shitting, or reading quietly, or showering… none of which would make for compelling TV. Has he ever fucked his wife? Is she, like, basically a prostitute? All these “actors” never (or at least virtually never) leave their bio-dome, and instead spend basically every waking minute for decades as extras mechanically going through “lives” that are entirely scripted? It just makes no sense.

    I think Not A Robot is correct that this should be read as a religious metaphor more than a commentary on the media, but the movie itself really gets too involved in the nuts and bolts of the “show” for me to just wave it away as a metaphor which isn’t meant to be picked at. I think that’s the only level on which it works, but somebody got too excited about the high concept here and tried to over-explain something which has no reasonable explanation. It’s one of the reasons this movie has never really worked for me.

  12. There were so many pairs of movies around this time.

    VOLCANO and DANTE’S PEAK
    DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON
    A BUG’S LIFE and ANTZ
    TRUMAN SHOW and EDTV

  13. I like that the movie can be read as either allegory, religion shackle-loosing or Reality TV culture indictment. I suppose it was more topical in the late 90’s to be seen as the latter. SERIES 7 and the earlier (somewhat prophetic) MAN BITES DOG were the more nihilistic satires, and made their misanthropic points more effectively than TRUMAN.

    But I’ll lean towards TRUMAN being about a man who is slowly coming alive to a greater reality than the world he’s known, Thomas Anderson without bullet-time and wire-fu. If Blade suddenly dropped into Truman’s artificial world, we all know what he would say.

  14. I think the explosion in reality television shortly after The Truman Show makes everyone think of it as a media satire, and while there’s some of that, I’ve always thought it works better as an allegory of the caves narrative, which could also map onto Not a Robot’s religious metaphor. I would group The Truman Show with The Matrix and Dark City rather than The Cable Guy and Ed TV.

  15. grimgrinningchris

    June 13th, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Definitely always saw it as religious allegory over celebrity and television (which was more the focus of EDTv right around that same time).

    Truman’s town really exists and looks exactly like that. This weird little almost Edward Scissorhands meets Cape Cod beach community just outside of Destin, FL called Seaside. It’s about an hour from my house.

  16. Master Troy: Damn it, why didn’t I think to use the sugar-coated topping line for this one? I let myself and Blade down.

  17. BATMAN FOREVER is unwatchable for sure but there is one Jim Carrey moment (IIRC) that I love: he has some big menacing supervillain speech and at the end he burps the last word. I mean, I gotta give props where props are due: that was an amazing choice. To this day I have never seen another supervillain burp at any point, let alone during a monologue.

  18. I’m gonna go ahead and nominate Dane DeHaan to play 2Man in The Grittening.

  19. Republican Cloth Coat

    June 13th, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    I’ve never seen The Truman Show, but I have read Phillip K. Dick’s Time Out Of Joint. I wonder if anyone familiar with both would comment on the similarities.

  20. Rbatty- Great call on this one being more of a piece with THE MATRIX or DARK CITY. They’re all very much about confronting the idea that there’s more to the world than you’ve been told, that people are misleading you about the fundamental nature of life for their own ends. I suppose the more overtly sci-fi elements of those ones provide a little more justification for the theoretically immense expense and difficulty of maintaining the illusion, but I do find this one pretty effective as sheer allegory, in that I kind of don’t think it’s meant to be “real”. You’re no more meant to question why people apparently love to watch Jim Carrey sleeping any more than you’re meant to point out that, hey, frogs and scorpions can’t really talk. It’s really about questioning what you’ve been told, and and all the tv show stuff is just the set dressing.

  21. Also, Vern- you did allude to the Blade line at least (“…since it never tells us to believe in the sugar-coated topping.”), so I think both your honor and Blade’s are still intact.

  22. Renfield, never forget the dueling Capote movies, Capote and Infamous.

    Also in the ’90s were Christopher Columbus: The Discovery vs. 1492: Conquest of Paradise, although in 1992 it’s only surprising there wasn’t a third Columbus film attempted.

  23. A connection can also be made (and probably was) between THE TRUMAN SHOW and PLEASANTVILLE, also from ’98. A lot of these movies mentioned – TTS, PV, MATRIX, DARK CITY, and to some degree AMERICAN BEAUTY and a bit later UNBREAKABLE – fed into a turn-of-the-millennum feeling that everything could change in the year 2000, and we’d finally break free of our mental constraints.

  24. I’m with not a robot on this one. I’ve always seen it as religious satire. The TV stuff just isn’t interesting enough. And it doesn’t hold up in the long run.

  25. not a robot –

    Yep – ‘angry’ is exactly what I thought about it. I find it a tough film to watch, really; it captures the desperation of being in the wrong place, in the wrong relationships. Meryl is especially great. Wanted to be a star, but what she is, is a prostitute (virtually all of them are), and has sold herself out and it’s destroying her. And nobody watching cares about anyone other than Truman. Ugh.

  26. Republican Cloth Coat

    Regarding Time Out of Joint, there are similarities, but the reason for the simulation in TOoJ is a practical and pragmatic one (don’t want to reveal anything – it’s a good book, like most of Phillip K Dick). THE TRUMAN SHOW is probably less straightforward, if anything, although that’s ignoring any subtext of the novel.

  27. What was it about the late 90s that made these allegory of the cave stories so popular? The Truman Show, The Matrix, Dark City, Pleasantville, and even Blade to an extent (as well as I’m sure plenty of others that I haven’t thought about) all trade on the idea that what we see isn’t “reality.”

  28. Don’t forget the Matt Damon Wears a Hat movie, which Google is telling me was called DER PLAN (really!) here in Switzerland, where I am stuck trying to get a connection that won’t block me as a spambot.

  29. RBatty – At the time I thought it was an idea in fiction that the millennium was coming and would free us from stupid bullshit. You could throw STRANGE DAYS on that list, which is both about concepts of reality and about social revolution tied to New Years 2000. Then the year changed, and things mostly seemed the same. I guess ROAD TRIP came out.

  30. Borg9 – that would be The Adjustment Bureau.

  31. I love the performances in this one. I am usually more impressed with subtlety than scenery chewing and they all totally nail the sense of wrongness, even dread, lying beneath the seeming perfection. I still think about the scene where Meryl thinks Truman is about to attack her so she cries out for help and he replies with, “Who are you talking to?!”

  32. I won’t get too deep into WESTWORLD spoilers but the arc of Ed Harris’ character on that show so far is almost what I’d imagine a TRUMAN sequel would be.

    And funnily enough Jim Carrey’s new show with Michel Gondry looks like it’s tackling some of the same terrain he did here and with MAN ON THE MOON.

    https://youtu.be/OzwU7dbmAyY

  33. Great that this is an Absolute Power reunion too, although they don’t have any scenes together.

  34. @ geoffreyjar

    One of the first people (if not the first) person to leave the 7UP series* (after just two, I think) and even went on to sue the show (and lose) because they merely used a still picture of him in a future film in the series – was a director of documentaries for the BBC after his time on the show.

    *where they catch up participants every 7 years for a documentary on their life by director Michael Apted, 63 UP coming very soon.

  35. Considering how dull and uneventful I find most reality shows and the Kardashians especially, I don’t think that part of the movie has aged badly. It is fair though how the audience’s greek chorus probably would be more split on Truman escaping the show.

    I think Carey works in the lead role in a way so that the common perception that this movie is in many ways a re-telling/updated version of Plato’s allegory of the cave actually holds up, and it’s not just something that people looking to find philosophy in popular culture would say.

  36. Brian – That’s a good point. Whenever I’ve seen a reality TV show, it’s basically the same stuff over and over. People get in fights and talk behind each others’ backs. If you treat it as a scripted program (which it kind of is), then they’re really boring. These shows are basically the equivalent of dangling keys to occupy a baby, but, you know, for adults. The difference with The Truman Show is that it has the veneer of representing good old fashioned middle class suburbia.

  37. Oh great! I get one remark past those spam filters all week, and I am more than usually idiotic. Thank you Analog, for your indulgence.

    So, anyway, back at my desk now: I know we shouldn’t let reality get in the way of a good story, but my sister has been making docu-soaps/reality TV shows since the 90s (in 2005 she made a show called “I’ll Do Anything to Get on TV”), and TS2: The Grittening is a non-starter, since in reality at the merest hint of actual mental illness the producers would find themselves surrounded by lawyers with the show getting pulled. Although, clearly the law works differently in THE TRUMAN SHOW universe.

    For what it’s worth, she liked THE TRUMAN SHOW – as do I – but even in 1998 she was pointing out how the TV satire fails. If the show was that big, people would expect celebrity cameos and the opportunity to vote for outrageous plot twists; indeed a premium rate phone line for voting is a revenue stream it would be really hard to ignore.

    BUT the thing THE TRUMAN SHOW gets absolutely right about reality TV is what we really want from it, which, believe it or not, isn’t the car crash geek show most of it has become, but authenticity. The irony here is that for all the crazy plot twists, all the fabricated world, the hidden cameras and the godlike direction, Truman meets it all completely honestly and authentically, in a way that we can never trust celebrities or politicians to be. And it’s the chance to see that that keeps people watching.

  38. I was also gonna pick up the thread about Peter Weir, but the moment has gone; there’s a lot of great work in there though.

    However, since Palermo mentioned AMERICAN BEAUTY, can I boost Ray Lawrence’s 1985 movie BLISS, to which AB has always seemed, to me, to be indebted? It fits neatly into our theme of revealed reality with the story of Harry Joy, an advertising exec who is resuscitated after a heart attack only to discover that he is living in some hellish version of his former life. It’s a real gem with a great Australian cast – based on Peter Carey’s novel of the same name – and it has the courage of its convictions in ways that AMERICAN BEAUTY notably failed to. During its first screening at Cannes some 400 people walked out. Recommended!

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