Yes, Carrey refines his career playing a test-tube TV star, but only
inveterate stargazers will think he's the make-or-break component. If
Truman becomes a classic it'll be as a witty film of ideas that's graced with
a mesmerizing visual dimension.

Truman Burbank (Carrey) lives in a town of
Cloroxed streets (Seahaven) where no dog
would dare drop a load. Its pristine decors
are as ethereal as anything in Barton Fink
and Field of Dreams, two cinematic visions
that share Truman's production designer
Dennis Gassner. But to Truman, the burg
could just as well be Buffalo or Biloxi. He's
never ventured out of the place, where
newspapers carry xenophobic headlines
like, "Who needs Europe?"

The town is populated by happy Stepford types who almost seem to be
hawking products when brandishing bottles of this or that while chirping
their hellos. And, indeed they are, thanks to sunny Seahaven's dark secret.
Truman's friends and even his wife (Laura Linney) are actors
photographed on a domed TV set by 5,000 cameras. Pulling the strings is
a megalomaniacal filmmaker (Ed Harris) who's manipulated Truman's life
for mass broadcast consumption ever since Truman was a baby.

Andrew Niccol's script fits snugly into the late '90s, when everyone's
business is now the business of every media voyeur. We're on to Truman's
plight long before he is, but our awareness adds to the fun, particularly in
scenes where Linney fakes sincerity. The lacquered persona that's made
Linney a pain in previous films really works for her here.
Peter Weir's The Truman Show has something to
say about corporate America, about the
manipulation of public by the media and about the
nature of free will, but its thoughtfulness functions
simply as attractive packaging. The Truman Show is
really a well-crafted, exciting chase film, albeit
within a politically sophisticated context.

The story concerns Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey)
who's been enjoying a life of uninterrupted
middle-class utopia in a small island hamlet called
Sea Haven. Truman has settled into a commodious
rut - he works as mid-level insurance broker, has a
glittering suburban home, a mindlessly adoring wife,
Meryl (Laura Linney), and a trusty best friend,
Marlon (Noah Emmerich), who spouts sensitive-guy
empathy, punctuated by long tugs from an
omnipresent can of beer.

Truman senses that his cozy existence is, in reality,
oppressively sheltered. He longs to travel beyond
Sea Haven, whose shores he has never left because
of severe aquaphobia. Meanwhile, as Truman
experiences these stirrings of discontent, a series of
disturbing events occur. First, his father, who
supposedly died years ago, makes a surprise
appearance on a downtown sidewalk. When Truman
recognizes and calls out to him, a couple of
pedestrians scoop the father up and whisk him
away. Later that same day, Truman's car radio
malfunctions and begins to broadcast a station that
seems to be monitoring his every move. When the
station is cut off, everyone in the crowded streets
screeches to a complete stop. These episodes, and
others like them, suggest that a) Truman is losing
his mind or b) there is a gigantic conspiracy against
him.

The truth, which is revealed to the audience in the
opening scenes, is that Truman was adopted by a
corporation at birth and has been, for his whole life,
the unwitting star of the TRUMAN show - "the most
watched television program in history." TRUMAN is a
logistically awesome simulacrum of real life - it takes
place inside a massive biosphere (which is, along
with the Great Wall of China, the only manmade
object visible from space), and is populated by
thousands of actors portraying Truman's wife,
co-workers, etc.

The experiment is supervised by Cristof (Ed Harris),
a megalomaniac who envisions TRUMAN as an
alternative to the "phoniness" of fictional narratives.
The hook of the TRUMAN show, according to Cristof,
is that it's all "authentic," that it offers an
uncensored glimpse into real life. The film
conveniently ignores many similar experiments
devised by cable access programmers and
avant-garde documentarians, who felt sure that
filming a life in real time would make for gripping
television. It would not - especially not documenting
the life of a colorless drudge like Truman.

But that's a minor gripe. For the most part, The
Truman Show is believable and intelligent. Like