There are few actors who have created for me a more divisive vision of who they are than the enigmatic Jim Carrey. For the longest time, Jim Carrey was someone who I respected yet kept at a distance. He is the absolute best at what he does, there is no doubt about it. He is an incredibly emotive, physically brilliant actor who commands each character with the subtlety of a psychedelic polka-dot poncho. And that’s really something to be commended, as he truly is the best at that brand of comedy. That brand of comedy just doesn’t always work for me. I can’t watch Dumb & Dumber. I just can’t. The consistent face manipulation and silly voices, while difficult to accomplish, simply don’t appeal to me. So for a great deal of my life, I was well aware of who Jim Carrey was, I just preferred not to encounter him in anything less than small dosages. But then I encountered a film that changed my viewpoint on Mr. Carrey for the rest of my life. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Eternal Sunshine is without a doubt one of the best films I’ve ever seen, but more importantly, it introduced me to a new kind of Jim Carrey. A Jim Carrey that will forever stand out as a man who is not afraid to be honest with the audience; as a man who understands what it means to be a person, and can deliver that message with a surprising amount of subtlety. But we’re not here to talk about Eternal Sunshine. We’re here to talk about The Truman Show.
If you have not seen Eternal Sunshine, nor have you seen The Truman Show, and you find yourself very confused as to who this Jim Carrey that I’m describing actually is, do yourself a favor and watch The Truman Show as soon as possible. It’s on Netflix, so you really don’t have an excuse anymore. The Truman Show has one of the most intriguing plots put to film. The story revolves around a fictional television show that is really more of a massive social experiment than your standard scripted programming. Literally from birth, Truman is raised in an entirely fabricated world, in which his experiences and interactions are broadcasted live 24/7 to virtually the entire planet. Everyone he encounters on a day-to-day basis are mild-mannered actors and extras, who are employed to ensure that Truman’s life remain quiescent and placated. He doesn’t comprehend the fallaciousness of his situation until his thirtieth birthday whenever he starts to notice some inconsistencies in his reality and believes things to be amuck. This is where our story unfolds; the tale of a man realizing that everything that he believes to be actuality is in fact completely orchestrated and dealing with the repercussions of this fact. It’s a story of identity, of existence, of man’s relationship to God, and it is brilliant.
The Truman Show is directed by the famous Peter Weir, of such acclaim as one of my personal favorite films, Dead Poets Society. This film is directed with absolute ingenuity. The attention to detail is so visceral in this film, everything feels like it could belong in a television set, and the shifts between the scenes in Truman’s world and those in the “real world” are handled with enough differentiation that you truly feel as if you’re stepping from one reality into another. The movie uses various camera techniques to give the appearance as though we are watching the action unfold through some sort of spy camera or something of the like, and while this technique definitely has the capacity to become tired and laborious if over-used, Weir blends it with the standard Hollywood camera work in such a way that it never feels out of place or monotonous. I would say that one of the underappreciated stars of this movie is the set itself. The cerulean facade of Seahaven is masterfully designed to look like something straight off a television set, and the producer’s control room is perpetrated to feel genuinely monarchial if not empyreal in comparison to the diminutive television society. This film is directed in such a way that every shot feels intimate as if you are connected and invested in the life of Truman in the same way that you might to someone dear to your heart. Though granted, part of this is because of the genius of Carrey himself.
I’ve already raved to you about how proficient of an actor Carrey truly is. There’s not much more to say about the man with a thousand faces. I will say that one thing to be said about Carrey in the role of Truman is this: Oftentimes when a character is too inquisitive or naive, they can become grating and obtuse. Yet Truman is a character whose lack of knowledge you empathize with and wish to see succeed. It’s almost as if his ignorance is a whole character unto itself, with its own arch and redemption. This dimension of performance is one rarely found in an actor known mainly for comedic works and is a talent that should be applauded. While there are other actors in this film who deliver perfectly fine performances, most notably Ed Harris in the transcendental role of Christoph, this is truly Carrey’s film through and through. While Eternal Sunshine may be the best film Jim Carrey is in, this is the best Jim Carrey film. It is the role of a lifetime, and Carrey can spend an entire lifetime attempting to beat it and may never come close. I mean no ill will to Mr. Popper’s Penguins, but it doesn’t exactly hold a candle. This is a movie that will be remembered by many to be a film that made them have genuine questions about who they were, making them smile and cry along the way. We need more movies like The Truman Show. And we need more actors like Jim Carrey.
Image: Truman bowing out in The Truman Show, a Paramount Film