The Truman Show (1998)

The Truman Show
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Andrew Niccol
(number 336)

This is one of those movies that my parents took me to as a teenager which blew my mind. (I’m pretty sure they took me to a weekend showing at the Penthouse in Brooklyn, but I could actually be wrong about that.) But it opened my eyes to what movies could do. How a piece of Hollywood media could interrogate Hollywood media and make you think about what media you’re consuming – the human cost or effect of it. I loved it, and every time I watch it I love it again.

Truman’s world is based on a carefully constructed script. A world where everyone is in on the joke but him, everyone else is playing a careful, faux, product placement act of a life and he’s this weirdly groomed guy in the middle who has grown up with it, so it’s totally normal for him.

The facade begins to fail when the set starts to have technical issues. First a ‘star’ falls, which is of course, a light hung from the ceiling, then a malfuctioning rain storm and then the man who played his father sneaks into the set to play a homeless man. These, especially the last thing make Truman question his life. I like this idea that you can be living a sort of, cookie cutter life without questioning it, but once you do you start pursuing truth. For Truman this is the literal truth about the circumstances of his world, but it can also be about realising you’re unhappy/wanting more and questioning why. This is a very real situation I have been in.

Although it’s set up as a utopia, Truman is shown to be unhappy. He wants to travel, badly. He’s yearning for a girl he spent a couple of hours with as a teenager. Yearning and wishing for her even though he’s married.

One of my favourite tiny moments is when Truman gets onto the radio frequency they use to track and cue people, and there’s a massive squeal of feedback as they switch. There’s a long shot of everyone in the area stopping and clutching their ears as the feedback hurts them. It’s beautifully done. This also leads the inspiring music sequence of him actively interacting with the world in ways he never has before, giving him a glimpse of behind the scenes.

Does it make me love the people? Laura Linney’s slowly breaking mask of happiness, the cracks in her careful facade are so gorgeous. I want for her to have won an award for this movie. Jim Carrey’s work is great here too, his dramatic work has always impressed me more than his comedic turns.

Bechdel test: Meryl and Truman’s mother sort of speak, pointing to photos in an old family album and exclaiming over them, but there’s issues with this. Truman’s mother has no name but also they’re both talking to Truman, and about Truman. The photos are all of him.

Representation shout out to the two old lady lesbians who are watching the show and frequently cut to in the viewer montages. They’re wearing matching bathrobes and they fall asleep on each other, it’s sweet.

Best line:

Christof: We’ve become bored with watching actors give us phony emotions. We are tired of pyrotechnics and special effects. While the world he inhabits is, in some respects, counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts, no cue cards. It isn’t always Shakespeare, but it’s genuine. It’s a life.

Marlon: you have a desk job! I’d love a desk job

Truman: why do you want to have a baby with me? You hate me.
Meryl: That’s not true! – turns away, lets her actual emotions show, picks up a box – Why don’t you let me fix you some of this Mococoa drink? All natural cocoa beans from the upper slopes of Mount Nicaragua. No artificial sweeteners.

State of Mind: I really rate this movie. I love the way it's crafted, the careful performance of Ed Harris, Laura Linney and Noah Emmerich as the people closest to Truman, curating his life. Jim Carrey's performance which is both excellent and naive. It's a classic, I’ll definitely watch it again.

Watched movie count

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