Watching Like a Writer is a movie review series that looks at films from the perspective of a fiction writer, complete with one writing takeaway, and an exercise that will help better your fiction!
Review: Twenty years ago today The Truman Show was released to theaters nationwide, and if there’s one thing these past two decades have proven, it’s that this film is just as topical and powerful and entertaining and emotionally resonant as it was in the summer of 1998. The shock of seeing superstar Jim Carrey in something other than a silly comedy is gone, of course, and I feel like now he can truly be seen as a gifted actor, one who was perfectly cast in the role of Truman Burbank.
Once in awhile people ask me what my favorite movies are, and I always include The Truman Show in my top five. And while most of my favorite movies took me months, even years, to really fall head over heels for them during the course of multiple viewings, Peter Weir’s film floored me that opening weekend, when I was merely thirteen years old, and in the ten or more times I’ve watched The Truman Show since, it never fails to amaze me.
Everything works about this film. Everything. It’s that rare motion picture that, to my mind, has no flaws. In the hands of lesser filmmakers and actors it could have been a disaster, and yet, somehow, all the pieces came together to make for what is one stunner of a movie.
Telling the story of a man whose entire life has been the subject of a television show without his knowledge, The Truman Show is difficult to put in any one box. Let’s go through, one by one, everything it is, really.
It’s a comedy.
The film is very funny. The product placement. The camera angles. Truman spying on his wife at work. People were used to Jim Carrey the comedian, so if the film had been too dark and dramatic, like apparently the first few drafts of Andrew Niccol’s screenplay were, I’m not sure the film would have been as palpable for audiences, and I don’t think it would be as successful overall.
It’s a drama.
The film is as moving as it is funny, if not more so. The genuinely disturbing nature of Truman’s life makes for a backdrop of complexity and propulsion throughout the entire film, and Truman’s sincere moments of anguish, for the girl he lost, for the dad he thinks died, for the screwed up reality he slowly comes to learn isn’t what it seems. Carrey is at the absolute top of his game in this film as a dramatic actor, especially at the very end, which is one of the most rousing final few minutes of any film I’ve seen.
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