After sitting through a shameless amount of TV product placements, I suddenly had an urge to revisit an old favourite: The Truman Show 1998. Once again, I was instantly drawn into the intriguing world of Truman Burbank; his comfortable little existence in a comfortable little home, a charming wife by his side and the many friends and family who care about him. In short, the kind of life fished out of a 50s utopian dream, complete with unidentified objects falling out of the sky and inexplicable advertising spouting out of your wife’s mouth. And for those of you who have yet to watch this film… yes, you read that correctly.
Part of why The Truman Show is so watchable lies in the brilliant characterisation of Truman himself. By The Truman Show, I refer not only to the movie which I am reviewing, but also the television show in which he stars. Truman is sweetly comical, headstrong but good-natured; it is easy to love him. In one sense, he reminds me a little of George Bailey. Like our timeless holiday hero, Truman is trapped in a small town, determined to see the world. I think Truman is an incredibly sympathetic character, and it’s just possible that a 24 hour show revolving around his unremarkable life would have succeeded. Now more than ever, I think we can understand that craving for the extra-ordinary.
It is, of course, the premise of the film though that makes it so great. While it could be argued that the story is not the first of its kind, (the movie was inspired by elements from a Twilight Zone episode), Peter Weir executes these ideas very effectively. The concept of a perfect suburbia is eerily realised through his sunny cinematography, literally rounded off by the mannered vignetting. We watch Truman’s artificial world through the eyes of his audience (slightly pathetic couch potatoes) and see exactly what they see: an engaging style that falls somewhere between a documentary, surveillance videos and vintage advertising.
After 15 years, The Truman Show still stands as one of the most prophetic films we’ve ever encountered. Additionally, it highlights the unthinkable soft power of the media and how reality television is almost always far from real. As a piece of entertainment, the movie is fantastic, flawlessly alternating between comedy and drama. Finally, the ending of The Truman Show really is a great one, filled with new-found hope and the satisfying thrill of the unknown. As the score swells to a moving climax, we watch Truman climb the stairs and open the door to the real world.