Movie Dictator Club: The Truman Show (1998)

The Movie Dictator Club for the month of April, 2011 is all about god, at least I think it is!

Written By: Andrew Niccol
Directed By: Peter Weir

If there was ever a person who would make a decent god, Ed Harris is that person. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t read a single thing about The Truman Show and I didn’t come up with my reading until the final five minutes clicked it all into place. If there is a god then we don’t need him, because someone so callous and uncaring is someone we can do without. Not only that, but we can do just fine without god, feel liberated even. Maybe this is a controversial reading, I wouldn’t know, but it is the way that I interpreted The Truman Show.

At first I was kind of into what was happening in The Truman Show, but the predictability of those first twenty or so minutes were hard to deal with. I kept waiting for the movie to move beyond the norm, to give me something I didn’t see coming. When that didn’t happen I settled in to what I felt was a pleasant movie with a decent message about the mundane nature of reality TV and our innate individualism that makes us want to break free from reality TV. Then Truman started to lose it and I became keenly interested in what I was seeing. Now Peter Weir was giving me something different, something that felt wholly unique. Yeah, Jim Carrey still had a few moments where he pulled out his idiotic “Look at me, I’m Jim Carrey” schtick that stops his performance in The Truman Show from being on the same level as his performance in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. But, those moments were only few and what I was seeing around those moments was captivating cinema. Somewhere along the way Peter Weir took what was only a pleasant experience, drew me in and made me deeply concerned about what was happening to Truman and his world.

Then those final minutes came and Mr. Weir pulled the rug out from under my feet. He completely obliterated the idea I had formed of The Truman Show being a movie about the ills of reality TV. In its stead he hits me in the chin with the fact that The Truman Show was about us not needing god. Even those of us who believe in god can move past him, not use him (or her as the case may be) as a crutch. I was deeply moved by the final minutes of The Truman Show, I was amazed by how succinctly Mr. Weir was able to put the thoughts in my brain about the subject of god into his movie. I am easily taken by movies that speak to me, and the final minutes of The Truman Show spoke to me in a way that I haven’t been spoken to by a movie in a while.

I should tell you, I am an atheist myself. Not that it should matter, but I know it will to some people, and I’m sure that some people will now use that as the sole reason behind my reading of The Truman Show. The key distinction I am making, that I think people need to be aware of, is that I’m not saying god is bad. I’m not saying that Truman is turning his back on god or all of a sudden becoming an atheist. I do believe there is a bit of an anti-god message in The Truman Show, mainly brought forth in the character of Lauren/Sylvia ad the callous attitude of Ed Harris. That doesn’t mean the final moments of the film are anti-god though. Saying that people can stand on their own and make their own decisions without worrying about pleasing the righteous hand of god is not the same as saying god is bad.

Even if my take on The Truman Show doesn’t work for everyone, there’s no reason people shouldn’t enjoy The Truman Show. It’s a quirky film, and it is consistently engaging. It sputters a bit in the predictable nature of its opening sequences and Jim Carrey gets a little too crazy for his own good at times. But, when Truman walks up those steps at the end I was fully on board. God may still be in the sky, but Truman can walk away from his all seeing eyes any time he wants. That gives him power, that makes Truman an individual. That makes The Truman Show a movie worth seeing.




4 responses to “Movie Dictator Club: The Truman Show (1998)

  1. mcarteratthemovies

    I was young (17) when I first saw this, so I’m not sure I understood all the subtext and commentary at the time. I’ve seen it again since that initial viewing, and I liked the film much more — I’d count it as one of my favorite Jim Carrey performances (I like him when he lets a little seriousness creep into his acting). This came along before reality TV became so enormously popular — at least, reality TV as I remember it — so it was ahead of its time.

  2. I’ve actually managed to avoid most reality TV. I’ve seen some, don’t get me wrong, but not enough to where it has left any sort of impression on me. Maybe that’s why I was able to see something other than the reality TV interpretation of the film?

  3. Although I enjoyed the film when I first saw it in the theatres, I find that it has gotten much better upon multiple viewings. The ending of the film gets me every single time. I love the way Weir subtle builds the emotion in the film. By the end I was so emotionally engaged in Truman’s struggle that I felt I was practically climbing those steps with him.

  4. I’m sure future viewings will cause me to be more emotionally engaged with Truman, but this time around I was engaged in the film on a more meta level, I loved what Weir did with the film in that regard.

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