October Extras 2: The Truman Show (1998)

OCTOBER 27, 2008


It’s strange how The Truman Show served as a sort of bridge between high school and college. I saw it on its opening day, which also happened to be the day of my HS graduation (quick, check box office reports and figure out how old I am!), and then I saw it again a few weeks later on the first night of college orientation. Maybe that’s why I get all nostalgic when I watch it.

Or maybe it’s because I think I, like Jim Carrey’s character, am on a TV show at all times. I base this on absolutely nothing but the fact that one day at college (near the end of my sophomore year) I noticed a girl from one of my classes walking out of her dorm, and then about 20 steps behind her was a guy who was obviously not a student. Being a horror movie nut, I assumed he was stalking her, so I mentally wished them both the best of luck and continued on my way, which was to the mail room. I got my mail, and as I walked back to my dorm, I saw the same girl walking out of her building again, followed by the same guy! What the hell?

This of course, mirrors a scene in Truman when he notices that a guy on a bike and a dented car keep driving by over and over. And the funny thing about that scene is that it’s the biggest plot hole in the movie. We learn throughout the film that the TV people are always listening, that all the “residents” have hidden microphones in order to keep in contact, etc. So why did the TV overlords allow Truman to see this “loop” and do nothing about it? He says what he’s up to, and there’s even apparently a bit of a delay on the dented car, so there was plenty of time for some tech to contact the driver and tell him to turn around so Truman wouldn’t get suspicious.

Otherwise, I love how they manage to explain away all possible plot contrivances in a reasonably solid manner. Truman is afraid of water because his father drowned, and he’s afraid of flying because “plane parts” fall out of the sky and nearly kill him. There are still some minor issues with the setup (why would they even HAVE a travel agency?), but it’s good enough for me. Part of me wishes that more of the idea of it being a show was explored (he starts to get suspicious almost right from the start), but that would make for a very long movie.

One thing I definitely love about the setup is how we never see any of the TV folk for the first half of the movie (other than the “opening credits”, which are the credits for the show, not the movie). We see some people watching it, but the technicians, and Ed Harris’ character, all that stuff is saved for a key moment, at which point the movie becomes more of a back and forth between the two worlds. It’s a genius idea; we get to buy into the “reality” of the world before the curtain is lifted and we see just how much they are manipulating: the sun, the tide, everything is manufactured.

The score is amazing too. I used to cue up the final scene just to listen to the music before I finally got the soundtrack. It’s from a variety of composers, including Philip Glass, something that usually annoys me, but it works perfectly here. On that note, it’s odd how many of my all time favorite scores came in 1998: this, Meet Joe Black, Armageddon, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, What Dreams May Come...

(I didn’t say that last one was one of my favorite MOVIES, but it’s a damn good score)

Truman was actually the very first DVD I ever bought, on a barebones release that wasn’t even presented at the right aspect ratio (or maybe it WAS the intended ratio, 1.66:1?). I have since upgraded to the special edition that came out in 2005, which is worth the upgrade. A few deleted scenes, a pretty comprehensive making of (split in two parts for some reason), and a look at the FX make up for the lack of a commentary by Peter Weir (and where the hell has he been since Master and Commander? Come on man!). It has since been issued on Blu-Ray as well, but other than the idea of looking at Laura Linney (super hot in this movie) in High Def, I don’t see the need to upgrade yet again.

This remains the only “serious” Jim Carrey movie to make the same type of money his goofy comedies do, and rightfully so. It’s easily his best film (I should note I’m not a huge fan of any of his comedies; even as a kid I didn’t care much for The Mask or Dumb and Dumber, though I liked Liar, Liar a lot), and he managed to find the perfect balance between comedic and dramatic acting here. It’s probably a safe bet that if not for this movie’s success, stuff like Eternal Sunshine may not have happened, at least not with him. Show some respect, Charlie Kaufman loving hipsters!

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. i love this movie because of little trivia things like the fact that ed harris wanted to play a hunchback, to be imperfect, which is why he wanted to create such perfection-- little things about that movie just kill me. i just love it.

    -kolleen, blog 3


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