The Truman Show Movie Review

Topics: Film Analysis

Peter Weir’s 1998 dramatic comedy hit, “The Truman Show” awed the audience with its riveting storytelling and unique world building. The film, starring Jim Carrey as the titular Truman Burbank, details the day to day exploits of a man whose entire life has been manufactured as the world’s most popular television show. From birth Truman’s world has been one of sets and actors. Truman supposedly lives in the fictitious town of Seahaven, in reality he lives on the world’s largest set in Burbank, California.

Truman’s town is full of facades in both the literal and figurative sense. The town is built to serve Truman’s needs so most buildings are to preserve the illusion that Truman’s life is normal, therefore if Truman does not actively use the building, nothing more than a facade and possibly a lobby would be built. Also every person in Truman’s life is an actor playing a role, from his parents to his wife to his childhood best friend, who are paid actors who are under the direction of the creator Christoff.

The main two support cast for the Truman Show are Truman’s best friend Marlon and Truman’s wife Meryl who both serve distinct roles. Marlon seems to serve as Truman’s confidant and companion there to help the producers better influence Truman while Meryl seems to handle the brunt of the ever-present product placement that fund the Truman Show

One of  Truman shows greatest strengths is the way information is delivered to the audience.

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The film opens on day 10,909 with the in universe opening credits of “Starring Truman Burbank as Himself” followed by “*insert actor* as *insert character*” and without a single line of dialogue the viewer now knows that the show has been on the air for nearly thirty years, cementing its status as a cultural icon,and that our star Truman is the only ‘True Man’ in the film. We are introduced to Truman during his morning routine through a one-way mirror with the lighting giving the scene an amateurish and real life feel. This creates a deeply personal shot of Truman staring directly at the viewer, forcing them to form a connection to him. To contrast this and to further drive home the feeling that Truman gives the viewer, these shots are spliced with interviews of the actors in his life. These interviews are done up in a studio quality light with the actors looking slightly to the side and cutting the connection to the viewer. As Truman leaves his home that day, we watch him greet his neighbors with a familiarity that implies this is an everyday occurrence, we are then shown the first of many mishaps that lead to Truman questioning and later escaping from his pre-fabricated reality, a light labeled Sirius falls from the sky. The name Sirius being that of the brightest star in our sky, might be a bit of foreshadowing to the  film’s brightest star, Truman’s fall into near madness. This is quickly rationalized the  universe by Classical Clyde, the host of Truman’s radio station, as a piece of an airplane that had flown overhead and Truman continued about his day.

We get a look at Truman’s route to work and a few shots of him in his office making what seem to be an innocuous phone call about a Ms. Garland in Fiji, before he gets tasked with closing an account on harbor island across the bay. It is here we learn of Truman’s intense fear of the water but we are not yet shown what the origin of this fear is. Truman returns home and we are introduced to the film’s recurring blatant product placement by Meryl. He later goes out with his best friend Marlon the two share a deep conversation where the audience first witnesses that Truman is not completely satisfied with his current life and yearns to venture out. Truman specifically states he wishes to go to Fiji and provides the reasoning “ you can’t go any further before you start coming back”.

After the two part ways Truman heads to the beach where the audience is finally shown the source of his thalassophobia. As a young boy, Truman and his father went out sailing and encountered a storm. As a means to instill a fear of the water and make it harder for Truman to leave as he matured it was decided to have his father be lost at sea with Truman being led to believe that his father had perished and he was responsible. Truman then returns home to his wife and we learn that they are trying for a baby. The next day we are treated with the next reality changing event in Truman’s life with the return of his father. Truman spots his father in the town square and as soon as Truman approaches him to speak, two extras appear and usher his father onto a bus. This is a major catalyst in causing Truman to question his reality. Later that day we see Truman rummaging through a trunk of momentos in his basement, after Meryl interrupts with another round of product placement, Truman pulls out a woman’s sweater and the audience is given a flashback and is finally shown the true significance of Fiji. We are shown Truman’s college years where truman falls for an extra named Lauren Garland played by an actress named Sylvia. The two are not meant to be together as the producers intended for Truman to end up with Meryl and because of this the two are always separated by another actor when they come in contact with each other. The two later bump into each other in the library and decide to spend the night together and sneak off to the beach. They share an illicit kiss before an actor claiming to be her father comes to take her away. Lauren then reveals that her real name is Sylvia and that Truman’s entire life has been a tv show, as she is being taken her ‘father’ claims they are moving to Fiji.

When we return to the present we find Truman working on a patchwork photo of Sylvia that he has composed of cuttings from various fashion magazines. Through this the viewer is shown that Truman is still deeply in love with Sylvia. This is followed by the next reality-altering event, where Truman’s car radio picks up the producers’ frequency and he hears them discussing his commute in real time. Classical Clyde attempts to write off as picking up a police band but it is not enough and it is here that Truman truly begins questioning the world he lives in. Truman begins to change his routine and seems to inspect the world around him more. He starts by skipping work and doing things that are out of character and runs into the building next door to his job only to find a lobby with an elevator to nowhere. He then seeks out his best friend and the two have a heart to heart where Truman mentions feeling like the world is watching him and that he plans on going away. We later find Truman looking through photo books with his wife and mother. As he is flipping through the photos he notices his wife had her fingers crossed during their wedding. When Truman goes to confront her the following morning, she darts out of the house claiming she has to perform surgery on a woman who was injured in an elevator accident in the building next door to where Truman works. He attempts to confront her at the hospital but is ushered away, he immediately heads to a travel agency to enact his plans of leaving and attempts to book a flight to Fiji but is told they are all booked for a month out. Truman then tries the bus station and purchases a bus ticket to Chicago and as soon as he is seated, the bus breaks down. Trapped in Seahaven, Truman returns home and parks in his driveway and awaits his wife’s return.

While waiting Truman has the realization that people on the street are walking in a loop. After sharing this revelation with Meryl and her not even acknowledging it, Truman goes off on a tear and is driving recklessly as Meryl pleads with him to stop. After getting stuck in gridlock traffic Truman pretends to back down and head home, but suddenly whips back the way he came to find a road now devoid of traffic. They then head out of the sea haven until they reach the Seahaven Bridge. Truman’s fear of the water prevents him from driving over the bridge so he closes his eyes and slams on the gas forcing Meryl to steer. After crossing the bridge, Truman races away from Seahaven even driving through the pyrotechnics intended to stop him until they end up at a police blockade in front of the power plant.

An officer approaches the car and informs Truman that there has been a leak In the plant and that he must turn back. As the officer was leaving he made the mistake of referring to Truman by name. It is at this point that Truman reality was shattered and he begins a rampage, running off into the woods until he is captured and brought home. Truman and Meryl enter a heated argument after Meryl serves up her final plate of product placement and Truman snaps and grabs her. Meryl then screams to the cameras to help her and Marlon soon arrives with a six pack beer to defuse the situation. We cut to Truman, now fully questioning the world around him, sitting and talking to Marlon as he’s done so many times before. This time Truman mentions how he feels the whole world is in some sort of cabal against him and we are treated to a beautiful speech by Marlon about their friendship and in the final lines it is revealed to the audience that the whole speech was being drip-fed to him by Christoff. Marlon then reunites Truman with his father and everything seems to return to normal.

The climax begins with a similar shot the film began with, that being the one-way mirror shot. Truman begins by staring into the camera as if he knows it’s there and the producers begin to panic but Truman then proceeds with his routine. In the end he winks at the mirror and says “that one’s for free” , insinuating he actually knew they were watching. The rest of the scene is the same sequence from Truman’s first trip to work sans the falling light and the call to Fiji. This repetition pushes the idea that things are now just the same as they were at the top of the film. It is not until nightfall where we learn things have changed. We learned Meryl has left Truman and he has begun sleeping in the basement, or so the producers thought. In actuality Truman escaped from his basement and set sail. After a city wide search for him comes up fruitless, Truman is picked up by a boat camera in the sea. To get him to turn back Christoff orders a storm over the boat and when Truman refuses to turn back, Christoff has him capsized.

Truman survives and pushes on until crashing into the dome that surrounds his set. Upon reaching the barrier Truman breaks down and attempts to break down the wall, seeing that this would never work Truman begins to walk along the edge until he encounters a stairway leading to an exit. Just before he steps out, Christoff begins speaking and attempts to convince Truman to stay in Seahaven. Truman at first stands dumbfounded but when Christoff compels him to speak, he replies with his iconic farewell “In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight” before taking a bow and stepping off into the darkness beyond the door.

The Truman Show painted a mirror of consumer America through its great use of the interviews and scenes of characters not on the Truman Show. We see a bar completely dedicated to Truman, countless families glued to the show, and even a man in the bath eating every ad the show served them. Every part of the show was for sale, the wardrobe, the homes, to products they used were all available in the Truman catalog. It was this constant stream of salesmanship from Meryl that cause her to come off as fake and disingenuous, which in turn caused Truman to lash out at her. This over-the-top placement is only the tip of the iceberg, with moments like when the twins push Truman against the sign or anytime Marlon drinks his beer with the label facing out. The film also makes a case about our constant need for new content that seconds after a show that had been on the air for 30 years two security guards who seemed to have watched the show regularly instantly start channel surfing for something else. Not a moment is spared for something that must have been a part of their lives for a significant part of it. The Truman Show is a piece of work that has permeated our culture so deeply that there is now a condition named after it, where those afflicted believe they are in a Truman-like situation where everything around them is fake. It is so deep in the zeitgeist that “in case I don’t see ya” is almost always met with “good afternoon, good evening and goodnight”.

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The Truman Show Movie Review. (2021, Dec 14). Retrieved from

The Truman Show Movie Review
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