Okay, let’s see how fast I can get this review churned up, what with time is golden and everything.
I’ll give you a quick summary. My sister told me about this old American movie called ‘The Truman Show’, starring Jim Carrey in the year of 1998. I supposed that if you know about this show, you would have probably watched it already, and that I’m being very late (and even if the movie is not filmed in 1998 I’m still late, because my sister told me to watch this movie months ago).
But still, the summary. There’s this guy, Truman Burbank, who works in insurance business. He’s happy and bubbly and everything is all and well until he finds out he’s living inside a reality TV show. Guess what happens next.
Now, if you haven’t watched this show before (unlikely?) and you don’t want spoilers (therefore unlikely), then I have a short spoiler-free review, in addition to the short summary above:
The Truman Show is a kind of movie that you will not want to rush through it like the newer Marvel movies. You are supposed to sit and watch and savour every single moment as the story is woven for you, thread by thread. You will break across double fourth-walls, and the experience will be even more meta than Homestuck. But if you don’t really know what fourth-walls are and have no idea what is that Homestuck I’m talking about, then replace them with “it’s intricate”.
And here comes the spoilers. This review can’t go on without the in-depth philosophical review and some heated internal mental debate.
Let’s start with fourth walls. Double fourth walls. Literal fourth walls, because after all, you are watching a reality TV series in a movie.
And they really did it. The movie began with credits and commentary by the meta-meta-actors. Why meta-meta? Because they are actors who are acting in the movie as characters who are actors in the reality TV series in the movie (whereas Truman is only one step removed, since he’s just an actor acting as a non-actor character in the reality TV in the movie). There are those old blackened region at the corners of old TV, like you are looking into an old TV screen inside your TV/computer screen/70-inch 4K Ultra HD. Sometimes, you see from the point of view of different hidden cameras. Sometimes, the meta-meta actors gave you an advertisement right at you (and also the audiences in the movie that you are watching). And most of all, you are also watching the audiences who are also watching the Truman Show.
Can it get any more meta than that?
Yes. It can. That’s where the dialogues came in.
“There’s nothing fake about Truman himself. No scripts. No cue cuts —it’s a life*.”
-Christof, right in the beginning of the movie
A life? Alive? A live? As in a LIVE television recording. The script may tell you which is which, but without the script, do you know for sure?
It’s all true. It’s all real. Nothing is fake. Nothing you see on this show is fake. *beat* It’s merely controlled.
-Louis Coltrane, as Marlon
And the both of them came in right at the beginning of the movie.
Truman started out as a bubbly, happy, friendly, motivated man. He’s the best neighbour you can get (although he might be bad with dogs, especially dalmations), and he has a job in a company that are also getting ‘cutbacks’ like normal companies. He has a thing for women eyes, and he looks all funny when he’s at the harbour. But he wants to go Fiji anyway.
Until we get to know that his father died in the storm in the ocean. And then you think, is that just an actual history of his, before he get into the show?
(No, I didn’t realise that for him to not realise he’s in a reality TV he has to be there since he was a baby, and therefore, his father’s death would have been just an act)
Things started getting weird. Technical problems with the crew, I suppose. Seeing his father again, who was supposedly dead, being taken away by a woman with a dog and a man with a hat. The memory of him and another girl, who he start to fall in love with, but Truman wasn’t supposed to fall in love with her, so she was taken away after telling him to find out the truth. And that was why Truman was playing around with cut pieces of magazine of women eyes, so he could find the right pair of eyes.
TLDR, Truman (finally) decided to experiment with the setting and come to a realisation that everything revolves around him (and of course, much later he realises it’s all just an act), and all the while I keep screaming in my head trying to tell him that Marlon is too an actor, but of course, the ‘audiences’ were also there with me. They were crying when I was heart-broken about his father’s death, and when I was urging him to go crazy and find out the truth, the audiences were cheering him on as well.
And the worst/best part is that, the movie producer expected that. So scenes of the audiences’ reaction were placed strategically into the movie, so whenever I see the audiences doing nothing but watching the Truman Show (TV), so was I, watching the Truman Show (film).
Soon, it’s revealed why Truman’s father was staged to die, so that he would be afraid of the water, so it would stop him from sailing to the end of the ‘world’. The posters were there to brainwash him. His friends and family were there to convince him to stay. You know what I’m seeing? I’m seeing North Korea, or at least the North Korea that mass media has given me. And to know and watch how the audiences were just watching, despite the fact that something wrong was happening to another human being. That the laws are not there to protect Truman, where he’s trapped in a set with no escape.
So Christof said Truman can get out anytime he wanted to, but was that the fact? No. Yeah sure, he can escape anytime he wanted to. That is if he could ever break out of the psychological and physical prison enclosing him. Which he did, in the end, and he very nearly killed his ‘wife’, and at that point, I was like, just kill her already so everyone will be watching it as he did that.
For a moment, a long moment, I wondered what would happen, were that to actually happen. Would anything happen much at all?
There’s a theory that says humanity doesn’t do anything until it gets so bad we have nothing to lose, and that only applies when this applies to the majority of humanity. I forgot which part was the original theory and which part was my impromptu addition, but the concept is there all the same.
It was then I started to wonder about the ending. I mean, how would the movie end? Because the way it was going, it didn’t look like the movie was going to be about human rights. That wasn’t what it was. Truman would definitely find a way out, but the big problem is how. There are many ways to end this kind of story, but most of them are cliches, and the most of the rest are boring endings.
And I think that’s where the movie shines at its best.
There wasn’t a big twist. No, it was something much more subtle. Truman battled the storm and the ocean and the creator of the reality TV show, Christof. He came out triumphant, only to face the prime antagonist, Christof — without even meeting him. No, it was done with the Voice from the Up Above, as the Word of God (and by Word of God, I mean the Trope, very literally). And the best part wasn’t even the conversation between them.
No, the best part was the final scene when the Truman Show finally ended at it’s 10,913th day, when the reality TV finally ceased it’s 24/7 live transmission, in the form of conversation between two night-shift guards who were (also) obsessed with the Truman Show.
Guard A: You want another slice (of pizza)?
Guard B: No, no thanks.
Guard A: What else is on?
Guard B: Yeah let’s take a look —
Guard A: Where’s the TV guide?
Is that you there? Yes, that’s you. What’s next? Let’s watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I’ve been waiting forever for it.
All that was true to the core of the movie itself as a comedy, but it became something much more than a comedy. The whole movie is made up of so much irony that you can’t even taste it anymore. I wasn’t just watching this movie. I was watching the reality TV inside the movie just as I am watching ‘myself’ watching the movie. I am the audience. I am the night-shift guard who was looking of something to eat as I check out the next movie to watch in my list.
Which will be Guardians of the Galaxy 2. And a tonnes of others in my list, especially the ones my sister had recommended me.
But before that, I need to cook my apple soup. It’s getting late…