Picks and Pans Review: The Truman Show

updated 06/15/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1998 01:00AM

Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Ed Harris

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Just this once, believe the hype. Or at least 78 percent of it. The Truman Show is a provocative, daring drama, and Carrey, heretofore the Silly Putty-limbed star of such lowbrow joy buzzers as Dumb and Dumber and Liar Liar, pulls off the movie's tricky leading role with aplomb—and without resorting once to his old standby, breaking wind.

The Truman Show's basic premise is that Carrey's character, insurance salesman Truman Burbank, is the star of a live TV show that airs globally 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The whole world is watching, only Carrey doesn't know it. This poor schmo thinks he is just living his life, completely unaware that the scenic Florida island he calls home is really a giant set or that his hopelessly chipper wife (Linney) is really an actor playing a part, as are all his friends, neighbors and coworkers.

Like Madeline's Miss Clavel, Carrey senses that something is not right. Why does he see the exact same people at the exact same time every morning? Why does his wife always extol kitchen products as if they deserved Nobel prizes and hold them up so that the labels show? And why is it raining buckets only on him and nowhere else? As the truth dawns on him, he begins to object to leading an examined life.

The most fascinating aspect of Truman are the mechanics of the TV show itself—how many hidden cameras are needed to record all of Carrey's movements, how troublesome actors are written out, how the weather is manipulated. What all of this means is murkier. Obviously director Peter Weir (Fearless) and writer Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) are sick of everything being co-opted, homogenized and regurgitated by the media. But Truman's point also seems to be that one should live one's own life, not watch other people's on TV. Doesn't this apply to movies as well? (PG)

Bottom Line: Carrey ably carries a fascinating film

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