The Truman Show (1998) Poster

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An unassuming film that is thought provoking on so many levels, well acted and thoroughly enjoyable however you come to it
bob the moo29 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Truman Burbank is an ordinary guy in an ordinary little seaside town of Seahaven Island where nothing really happens. Everything is clean, everything is perfect, he knows people but never really connects to anyone. The one woman he ever really loved is not his wife and has long since left for the other side of the world where he longs to visit but feels he can never go. Paralysed by his fear of water since seeing his father die on a boating accident, Truman still feels he is missing something. A strange light falling from the sky, a man who reminds him of his dead father, a strange radio broadcast and the feeling that the world really stops when he shuts his eyes all combine to make him feel something is wrong – but what is it that he seeks but feels he cannot find?

When I first saw this film it was with my girlfriend (who would then become my wife, then ex-wife!) and I remember how she and our friends felt a little bit cheated by the film that they had expected to be yet another wacky Jim Carrey comedy. In fairness to her and the others, it was easy to do this at the time – who would have thought that Jim Carrey would be able to act – certainly not the marketing department that sold this film on the basis of it being a hilarious film as opposed to the thoughtful and rewarding film it turned out to be. The plot can be viewed on so many levels that it is honestly easier to leave it to each viewer to take what they will from it. On the most obvious level it satirises the media, the emotional façade of television and (the increasingly relevant) look at reality shows. To others it will say as much about God, the empty drone of life and the things that we all desire. Of course to others it will just be a comedy with general comments to make – and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever; in fact the multi-level approach works to make it appeal to many audiences.

Starting as a comedy, I am always taken by how well the film moves to become more and more interesting but yet never loses sight of those audience members who have come for the basic story. Hence it delivers an enjoyable and engaging central narrative that, plainly put, makes for a comic and involving yarn – we grow to care for Truman and this makes the ending an emotional and satisfying one even if some viewers will bemoan the fact that (to them) it appears 'open ended'. That it is also a very thought-provoking affair is only a bonus, with the satire working on many levels. Of course by seeming to tackle so many subjects and issues in such a short running time, the film never really gets its teeth deep into any one of them but this is not a major problem because it leaves us to do that in our heads after the film finishes.

The cast is roundly superb even if the majority of them are in minor roles. Of course it is easy now to look back at Carrey and accept that he can act straight but at the time it seemed so unlikely and few felt it was a good casting choice. Of course, seeing the end result it is clear that he can and he delivers such a great performance that he really makes the film work.

He is comic but yet serious, sympathetic but not worthy of pity – it is a great delivery and one that basically meant that I now look at his Ace Ventura stuff as the 'other' category and see his acting as his real work (6 years ago that was vice versa). Carrey carries the film, being on screen for almost the entire film but he has good support from Linney, Emmerich, Krause and others who play it well despite being stuck in the necessary stiff and unreal roles. The controller etc roles are all well played and feature a collection of well known faces including a great support role from Harris through to roles for Giamatti, Shearer, Baker Hall and a few others. It may be Carrey's show but the support certainly helps.

Overall this is a great film that can be appreciated as much for what it is on the surface (a great little comic story) as it can for the issues that it hints at all the time. There was a time when some viewers may have looked to a Carrey film to be a load of mugging an crude, basic laughs but this was the film that saw that change. Thought provoking, funny, entertaining, short, enjoyable and well acted throughout – well worth seeing and well worth coming back to several times.
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10/10
Genius
Altaira12 June 1999
I asked a friend to describe The Truman Show. He said, "No, it's not a comedy, well...not exactly." I didn't quite understand until I watched it myself. Truman takes on a tone quite different than any parody/comedies I've seen lately. The point (the media and its destructive powers) is subtlely relayed through dark humor, and you don't feel like the director is smashing you over the head with his morals. Peter Weir demonstrated his artistic genius in Dead Poets Society and here as well. The soundtrack is great, Ed Harris is stellar (what were they THINKING at the Academy?) and for once I actually liked Jim Carrey. His performance wasn't ribald for once. The final scene--I will not reveal it--is a majestic, long-awaited finish to an intellectual movie. Some people will insist that it was boring or pointless. Those are the same viewers who prefer slapstick, obvious humor to the subtle layers presented here. This is a thinking person's movie. If you can't see the underlying message here, of course you won't like it!
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10/10
A True American Classic
kingoham515 December 1999
When I first saw 'The Truman Show' I came out of the theatre amazed. This is your first clue that you are watching something different from your normal Jim Carrey movie. I love the dialogue, camera shot, performances, direction, music, and running time of this movie. There is nothing I would do to change it. I came away from 'The Truman Show' feeling inspired which is the goal of good filmmaking Jim Carrey was outstanding as Truman, underplaying him, not making him too comic or too dramatic, but giving true sincerity when asked. He deserved an Oscar nomination. Ed Harris has always been a good actor, but in this movie he's a great actor. He plays Christof with such arrogance and bullheadedness that you don't know whether he's helping or destroying Truman. He and the director, Peter Weir, deserved their Oscar nods.

Weir, who directed the great 'Witness', uses different camera angles to make you feel like you're actually watching 'The Truman Show' and not a movie. He ends it before you get tired of the concept and helped Carrey and Harris give immaculate performances. Andrew Niccol script is a real star in the movie too because of it's inventiveness and ingenuity. Overall, 'The Truman Show' is what I like to call a true American classic.
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10/10
Life is Starting to Imitate Satire
James Hitchcock31 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Life is starting to imitate satire. "The Truman Show" was only made seven years ago, but it predates the current mania for so-called "reality" television shows such as "Big Brother". The idea behind such shows is that they present the viewer with a slice of actual reality- real people in real situations with real emotions- rather than the simulated reality of drama or the edited reality of documentaries. The flaw in this idea is that nothing is more unreal than a reality show. The presence of the cameras has a distorting effect, inducing artificial behaviour patterns in those who appear in front of it, and the sort of people who star in such programmes are almost invariably eccentric exhibitionists. "The Truman Show" takes the central concept of reality TV shows one stage further in order to overcome this flaw: what would happen if we made a reality programme about a person who has absolutely no idea that he is appearing on television? Truman Burbank is an insurance executive, living in a small American seaside town called Seahaven, and happily married to a nurse named Meryl. Or at least he thinks he is. What Truman doesn't know is that he is the central character in a soap opera and that his whole life is a fiction. The company he works for does not exist. Seahaven, the island it stands on and the surrounding ocean are all part of a gigantic set, specially created for the programme and sealed off from the outside world in a gigantic geodesic dome. Everyone in Truman's life- Meryl, his mother, his colleagues at work, his best friend Marlon- are actors playing out their roles in his drama.

For thirty years Truman has accepted his world unquestioningly, but at the beginning of the film a series of incidents- a light falling from the sky, the reappearance of his father, who was supposed to have drowned in a boating accident when Truman was a boy, strange messages picked up on his car radio- awaken his doubts. Although members of the cast make strenuous attempts to dissuade him, he decides to try and explore the world outside Seahaven; in particular he wants to travel to Fiji where he has been told that his former girlfriend Sylvia now lives. (Sylvia was written out of the show when the scriptwriters decided that he should marry Meryl instead).

The film has certain similarities with another film from the late nineties, "Pleasantville", which dealt with an inverted version of the same idea; two teenagers from the real world are magically transported into the world of a fifties television show. In my view, however, "The Truman Show" is the better of the two. "Pleasantville" deals with its political themes in a heavy-handed way with some very obvious symbolism. "The Truman Show", although it deals with some weighty issues, is never ponderous or excessively serious; indeed, it is often very humorous. The main source of humour is the contrast between the naïve, trusting Truman and the behaviour of those around him, all living a lie and desperately trying to prevent Truman from finding out that it is a lie. I had previously thought of Jim Carrey as a rather annoying actor whose appeal was based upon the idea that manic overacting is in itself funny, but here as Truman he is very good indeed, both amusing and touching. I was also impressed by Ed Harris as Christof, the show's enigmatic producer.

Another factor in the success of the film is its visual look. Seahaven (like the town in "Pleasantville") appears as an eerily perfect, not-quite-real version of the typical American small town, but was actually filmed in a real place, the purpose-built village of Seaside, Florida. There are similarities with the cult British sixties television series "The Prisoner", which was also filmed in an eerily perfect seaside village, Portmeirion in North Wales.

The film is obviously a satire on the intrusiveness and obsession with celebrity of the modern media; added relevance was given by the fact that it came out shortly after the death of Princess Diana. There is, however, more to it than that. Much has been made of the film as religious allegory; it has been pointed out that Christof whose name is clearly, and quite deliberately, similar to "Christ", is a God-figure, whereas Truman (the "True Man") is a symbolic Everyman. It has even been claimed that the film is an anti-religious allegory, with Truman's final escape from Seahaven symbolic of man's need to break away from outdated religious dogmas. This is not an interpretation with which I would agree- if one is trying to put across a "God is dead" message, it seems odd to provide a God-figure who is very much real, not mythical or illusory. The imagery of the final scenes – the calm after the storm, the ascent up a flight of stairs into the sky and clouds- also struck me as religious rather than secular. Moreover, the film seems too complex to be reduced to any single allegorical meaning, although it certainly deals with the relationship between man and God. It also touches on man's need to explore- both to explore new places and also to explore new ideas and to break away from established ways of life and ways of thought- and on the nature of reality. Truman's world may seem unreal to us, but as Christof says, "we accept the reality we are presented with".

This is a brilliant, multi-layered film, part comedy, part satire, part philosophical speculation, and in my view one of the two best movies of the late nineties. (The other was "American Beauty"). I felt it should have taken the "Best Picture" Oscar for 1999- "Shakespeare in Love" is a good film, but "The Truman Show" is a great one. It confirms my view that Peter Weir is one of the best directors currently working. 10//10
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10/10
Ashaming....
DoctorKay19 January 2005
Ashaming that the Academy of motion picture arts and sciences has never realized what a brilliant actor Jim Carrey really is. The is no explanation for him not getting the Oscar for the Truman Show, there is no excuse for not even nominating him for The Truman Show and Man on the Moon. I like the academy Awards, most of the time it is a fair thing, but in that year it was a disaster. How else can you explain that in the year of Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line and of course The Truman Show the most boring and joyless film of all time Shakespeare in Love gets eight, I repeat, eight Oscars and the Truman Show gets none? I think it is because Jim has made so much Comedy, nobody really knows what tough work comedy means. It is ashaming that the Academy is sometimes still driven by outdated prejudices. For me, Jim Carrey is the greatest and most versatile actor in the world! And The Truman Show is The greatest performance by an actor I have ever seen on screen. Finished!
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8/10
Lawn Mowing At Its Best
daveisit10 July 2005
"The Truman Show" owes a lot to the direction of Peter Weir. Weir refuses to pump out the movies in a search for extra dollars. Instead he chooses wisely and directs brilliantly. Just by looking at a list of his movies will surprise and even amaze you. So as you would imagine "The Truman Show" is another success.

Truman Burbank has the perfect life, or so he thought until finally his life long suspicions about his world begin to unravel. Even though the idea for Truman is not totally original, it is thought provoking enough and allows the audience to wonder, what if? If you think this couldn't happen, just look back over the years at the stupidity of the human race and think again.

Jim Carrey once again nails his role, as do the entire cast. It is rare he fails to perform at a level that perfectly complements the movie and its genre. This is something he does not receive enough credit for. Acting for a comical role or a more dramatic role requires no less effort for the performance to be spot on.
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8/10
Ambitious and Entertaining Treatise on the Reality Media Creates for Us
DaveTheNovelist20 March 2003
It's not often a Hollywood film arrives with such lofty ambitions as this. On one hand this is a high concept comedy in the vein of "Groundhog Day" about an unwitting man whose entire life has been a TV show. This is also a Jim Carrey vehicle designed to display his charms. On the other hand this a very satirical look at the way the media manipulates our reality. The film also wants to take a philosophical look at free will vs. a higher power and reality vs. fantasy. It doesn't always work as the satire often keeps you from thinking too deeply about the underlying themes and the philosophical stuff keeps the satire from biting as well as it could. Credit engaging performances and solid and thoughtful direction from Weir for keeping things afloat and entertaining. There are some great cinematic moments here. I loved the "stolen kiss on the beach at night" and "Cue the sun!"

In the end this film is closer in spirit to psychological dramas and sci-fi movies where a person suddenly realizes they are the pawn in some grand experiment or a prisoner in an alien world than it is to anything in our current "reality TV" obsessed culture. Eventually it touches on a very basic conflict all humans must face (most people do so in childhood, some I fear never do). The universe does not revolve around us. In the closing moments we are excited for Truman because he finally realizes there is a whole new world out there to explore, but also slightly saddened because we know all to well that he will never be able to return to that idyllic "childhood" existence. How's it going to end? Who knows...but things will never be the same.
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10/10
The most multidimensional movie ever !!!!!!
drpavlovic141119 November 2011
It not so easy to be Jim Carrey, because nobody takes you seriously after many funny movies, even when he is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. He proved himself so many times in dramas, he is so great actor.

This time, there is no grade for the script, 10 is too low, maybe 10++ would suffice. I must agree that in everything around us we can see only what we are capable to see, but this movie gives so many levels and many people would see it differently and ALL WILL BE THRILLED by this movie.

People who are interested in the phenomenon of 'Big Brother',a kind of TV voyeurism (so present today) will see the ultimate human desire to observe somebody's life, from its beginning, and without consent of the person which is the object of that observing. There is nothing special in this man who is watched, but we like to have mirrors of our lives in other people (who knows why).

Of course, the next layer is ethical: do we have the right to watch somebody's life, because we don't talk about a rat, but a human being who doesn't know that he is watched in a TV show.

If we go further, we must ask ourselves, what is real in our life? There is is always some possibility that we are observed, directed, guided, monitored..., by somebody and our life is not so authentic as we used to think.

Next layer: this movie talks about freedom and personal choice. How we want to be free, no matter what are the other alternatives are. Free to love who we want, free to go, free as much as it is possible. Of course, if we want to be free, if our mind and society stop us.

FINALLY... The most interesting level is the spiritual one.This is a guidebook of the spiritual path. At first, this world is so secure and predictable place. We have our little lives and we can define everything what is important for us, to have some simplification of reality, to feel safe. This kind of ordinary life is a bit boring, but we are in a herd, we are not alone in our dungeon.

But..., at some moment, this world is maybe not what we thought it is..., maybe we want more of our lives,and the world is not so simple and ordinary place. We feel that there is something BEHIND this so- called 'reality'. And we start to search, to test that reality, which gives us more and more 'magic' things as we go deeper. This is still a stage of curiosity, many people tasted this path and feeling, but at some superficial level.

If we go further, we must fight the world. All possible obstacles will arise, people and circumstances. When Truman wants to see reality what it is, to be free, all his 'friends' and the complete crew don't let him to go our the ordinary tracks. So alike the spiritual quest.

Then, the moment has come, men must be separated from boys, that is, the curious people from the real seekers. The latter are ready to give even their lives, to 'waste' their time, to face their worst fears, to be 'hunted' by the society (which wants they to be 'normal' again)..., but a true spiritual person won't give up. The same as Truman ('you'l have to kill me!!!!!!!'), the quest is the real one only if we are totally determined to follow our inner feeling and to search the truth.

AT LAST..., we hit the 'border' of the world, the frontiers of the reality, we get know what this world really is. We are free to talk with our 'God' (though I think it is the final trick of our ego, to bring us back to be 'normal' again and it plays so many games to pull us back, by saying that there is nothing out there, everything is the same, and it is better in realm of ILLUSION).

Only a real spiritual person will say 'thanks' for the offer, and go to freedom, no matter what it is, but it is OUR freedom, our insight, the world won't be the same anymore.

It is such a pity that this is a kind of review, that I can't make a spoiler, to give more details, to relate the scenes from the movie and my points. But when you see it, you'll know what I am talking about.

Again, you'll see what you are able to see, the movie will be deep in degree of your ability to open your mind. This scenario can't be beaten even by movies like Gandhi or Mozart, or any other. An excellent work of Andrew Niccol.
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An On-Film Miracle
J.Bond8 August 1998
Although it sometimes seems that Hollywood is catering to the lowest common denominator of everything, The Truman Show is proof that there are great ideas that are able to be turned into great movies. Jim Carrey plays an excellent role as a man with whom you can emphasize as well as be entertained by. The film's surrealistic nature is frightening when the viewer realizes the legal feasibility in today's society, and it offers a great message about who or what we assume God to be and how He (he?) would react to our personal drives for discovery to challenge a world we treat as an aquarium. Some things to note and ponder: The way the real-life viewers ignore the real lives of their compatriots and customers while focusing on a false life on screen; whose life is more real and whose is worth living? Also, note that Christof does not have his name listed among the "real world" in the credits, but in "Christof's World." His high-profile media-driven life is no different from Truman's!
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The Boy In The Bubble
Jeremy Phillips16 March 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Having been bandied about the release schedules for the best part of a year, Carrey's first semi-dramatic film finally got a UK release last October. He plays Truman Burbank, a vaguely unhappy insurance salesman in the perfect little seaside town of Seahaven. Following some strange occurrences, Truman starts to think that he is being watched. Little does he know that his entire life is secretly filmed, his town is a gigantic sound-stage, everyone he has ever known was an actor and that his every waking and sleeping second is broadcast around the world as a top-rated docu-soap.

Critics have been lavishing enormous praise on this movie since it opened in America last June, and probably rightly so because it is a superbly crafted piece of work. Weir's direction is outstanding, frequently viewing events from the point of view of hidden spy cameras, such as the one in Truman's car radio. One stunning shot has the town's main street full of motionless extras, waiting for Truman to turn the corner. Jim Carrey's performance has been singled out for particular praise, and though his acting is of a much higher standard that his usual comedy antics, it is not exactly Laurence Olivier. This said, an Oscar nomination would have been well deserved.

The setting of a chirpy small town from which escape is impossible echoes cult 60's series The Prisoner, but the balance of reality and poetry is much more restrained here than it was then. The opening credits are especially clever, using those of the actual `show' (e.g. Truman Burbank as Himself). There are, however, a few problems. The film is simply too short to adequately explore Truman's situation, and the character of Meryl, his `wife', disappears about half-an-hour from the end. This kind of slightly sloppy scripting was not something I expected from writer Andrew Niccol, whose previous film Gattaca, which he also directed, was such an immediate classic. Gripes aside, this is an extraordinary and highly original film that really is worth seeing several times to fully understand the director's message. It doesn't even matter if you never liked Jim Carrey before. You will now.
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