Yogi Berra famously once said, If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be. And to go even further still, in As You Like It Shakespeare wrote, the world is a stage and all the men and women are merely players. They have their exits and entrances.” So it goes with this film — The Truman Show. In fact, in some ways, it feels reminiscent to the likes Groundhog Day and even Jim Carrey’s later project Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s meta qualities and storytelling structure truly pushes the boundaries of what we know to be true. And in each case the results are gripping.
Directed by Peter Weir an Australian craftsman of other fine works like Witness and Dead Poets Society, the film takes this fascinating concept and truly runs with it even from its initial title credits. Truman, played so delightfully by Jim Carrey, is the perfect schmuck next door. He has a white picket fence, a beautiful wife, a stable desk job. What more could you ask for? It’s not the least bit weird that we get an uneasy feeling we’re in Stepford, in this case, his town named Sea Haven.
As an audience, all of this seems suspect, but Truman goes through his life strangely ignorant. Still, he has this unquenchable desire to go to Fiji, but the memories of his father’s tragic death and his wife’s (Laura Linney) reluctance to skip out on their mortgage is holding him back.
However, as things progress there begin to be even more warning signs and indications to Truman that all is not right in his world. In truth, his life is a TV show, where everyone is privy to a television program including the audience, but that program ends up being his life. Truman Burbank is at the center of this orchestrated universe and he has been for 30 years. But over time he gets wise to the game and he’s looking to push the limit of the rules as far as they will go so he can get to the bottom of it all. But as he begins to push the boundaries of this world, goofs and mess-ups become more obvious. Truman begins to notice loops and inconsistencies in the story being told around him. Some people, namely the former extra Sylvia (Natascha McElhone), want Truman released from this prison–this life under a microscope.
However, when we meet the show’s creator, director, and mastermind Christoph (Ed Harris) he sees what he has given Truman as a gift ( I have given Truman the chance to live a normal life. Sea haven is the way things should be). But when Truman goes off grid, there’s a media frenzy and he forces the hand of his creator. Thus, this “creator” and “created” paradigm is developed and they have their first interaction, which consequently will also be their last.
If there is a Creator of the Universe, our universe, The Truman Show puts it in a clearer light. Christoph seems like a somewhat selfish individual who allows his creation to walk off set rather reluctantly, but he finally does let go. Thus, his actions seem to make it clear that the most loving Creator possible would let his creation do what they pleased. He would be in control, but he would willingly give his created ones free will to do what they want. That makes sense to me. I would want to be a living, breathing, mistake-doing individual rather than a mechanized robot. That’s the beauty of this life.
Going back to the eminent Yogi Berra. Our lives are not perfect, they are full of hurt and pain and mistakes. A lot of which is brought on by ourselves or other people. But would we have life any other way? I think not. Because if life were perfect in every step, perfectly controlled and accounted for, what would that be? Hardly life at all. The Truman Show is a fascinating film, but let’s not have the conversation stop there. It is simply a film, but allow it to point you to the deeper, harder questions. Questions of free will and a creator, an imperfect world versus a utopia and so on. What if some day the joke’s on us and we find out that someone has been watching our every movement? That’ll be the day.