Over the course of this critical analysis I will go into depth about twoaspects of Hollywood Cinema that contribute towards my chosen film, PeterWeir’s The Truman Show. I amconducting research from past readings and film texts that will help me lookinto the genre of the film. I will also look at and analyze the actor, and starof The Truman Show, Jim Carrey andhow he is a relevant example of Dyer’s ‘Theory of Stardom’1,on which I will go into more detail later on. The Truman Show is 1998 black comedy film written by Andrew Niccol. Itcentres around Truman, an insurance salesman/adjuster who discovers that hisentire life is a reality television show broadcasted to millions across theworld. ‘The Truman Show’ didexceptionally well at the box office, earning over $125m from its $60m budget2.
It was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor andBest Director3.It also earned Star, Jim Carrey a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama. Ibelieve that ‘The Truman Show’ will be a relevant film to look at in regards toGenre and Star Study. With reasons being that it has a much deeper meaning thaton its surface and that how Jim Carrey played a dissimilar character than whataudiences were used to, with him gathering a reputation in the early 1990s forplaying over the top, exaggerated roles in box office smashes like Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (both 1994). Genre in ‘TheTruman Show’Film genres are used to put films into categorizes based, mostly, on theplot. However, they also take setting, style and certain characters intoconsideration. In the book HollywoodCinema Richard Maltby explains how ‘the variations of plot, characterization,or setting in each imitation inflect the audience’s generic expectations byintroducing new elements or transgressing old ones’4.The Truman Show is classed as a black comedy.
The Truman Show, on the surface, would appear to be another comedyfilm that stars Jim Carrey. However, the film holds a much deeper meaning ifyou explore the certain ideological points and plot of this 1998 blockbuster. Media and the power it possesses to manipulate the world is anideological point to consider throughout TheTruman Show, due to the fact that the character of Truman’s whole life isbeing broadcasted around the world to millions all controlled by an antagonisticdirector, who is almost like some sort of God figure to Truman. It is clear tosee that ‘The Truman Show’ has the subject of religion and Christianitythroughout. The character of Christof, an obvious reference, uses his constantpresence and power to be completely in control of Truman from birth to presentday, all for the sake of getting more people around the world to watch hisreality television show.
Director Peter Weir shows the viewer how it is notonly protagonist Truman who is trapped. The viewers are also trapped, theireyes are glued to the screen, they are addicted to watching Truman everyday ofhis fake life. What’s also distressing is the fact that the viewers do not seemto mind that Truman is a slave trapped and forced to live the life thatcreator, Christof, chooses. Going back to the fact that TheTruman Show is a black comedy film pushed out the target audience of it.With it being both a Comedy and a Drama, fans of both genres would watch it.That is if a film’s genre will decide what type of audience will view it. SteveNeale states ‘Hollywood’s generic regime performs two inter-related functions:i) to guarantee meanings and pleasures for audiences ii) to offset theconsiderable economic risks of industrial film production by providingcognitive collateral against innovation and difference.’5Neale believes genre is both down to the audience and the economical risks ofthe production.
So, The Truman Showbeing a black comedy would be less of an economic risk as audiences are used toseeing Jim Carrey in comedic roles. Neale again argues that pleasure is derivedfrom ‘repetition and difference.’ Therefore, linking to the dramedy genre ofthe Truman Show, audiences would feel safe watching Carrey in a comedic filmbut would also be intrigued with him playing a more serious role because it isnot as slapstick as. The studio has therefore satisfied the viewer but havealso grossed a lot of money due to the genre, $125m to be exact. Weir constantly questions theaudience and continues to poke fun at the consumer. The Truman Show is very much a post-modern film.
Furthermore, thereis a certain ideainvolving post-modernism which is a belief in the need to question the outsideworld because it is shaped by things we cannot control. The whole premise ofthe show starring Truman and his journey to question and eventually escape thecontrolled world in which he lives. In reality, the controlled world that weinhabit is controlled not by one man named Christof, but rather social normsand ideology. The media and the impact of it is constant throughout. Weirparodies consumer culture by mocking product placement in many occurrences inthe film. Most notably when Truman’s wife Meryl starts offering him Cocoa fromthe ‘Mountains of Namibia’6where she literally reads the product description from a script.
This is thefirst time we see Truman actually question the stupidity and ridiculousness ofconsumer culture in modern day society, which is key throughout the duration ofThe Truman Show. Star Study on JimCarrey (Truman Burbank in The Truman Show) In 1990 Jim Carrey was appearing in InLiving Color (1990-1994) alow-budget sketch comedy series7.Before that he was a stand-up comedian in his home country of Canada. By 1994he was seen as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood after starring in threemassively successful blockbusters. These films were The Mask which made $120m at the Box Office8.Dumb and Dumber starring alongsideJeff Daniels, which grossed close to $250m9.
The last of the trio that made his career was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective making around $107m10.All of these films spawned sequels and cemented Carrey’s place in Hollywoodhistory as one of the biggest starts of all time. Jim Carrey is an example of’Dyer’s Theory of Stardom’11.He created his own persona and image to sell to an audience. In the Majority of Carrey’s films, he plays eccentric and outspokencharacters from this viewers and fans then believe that Jim Carrey is like thatas well, due to the characters he portrays in his movies. In the book ‘Film Stars:Hollywood and Beyond’, Andrew Willis states ‘Recognition of a favourite performerclearly increases the ostenstiveness of their performance signs.’ Willis thenstates ‘The idiolect of the star – the reoccurring elements of theirperformance that they carry from role to role – operate, for those whorecognize them, as ostensive inter-textual signifiers, offering the return offamiliar pleasures’12.This is why when the first trailer13and images were released for The TrumanShow it was met with a mixed reaction.
It seemed like Jim Carrey was notplaying his regular, stereotypical character, it looked like Carrey was playinga more serious role, something audiences had not witnessed before. However, thefirst trailer did include a few of Carrey’s recognizable traits which includedhis signature, eccentric facial expressions. Which meant audiences were able torelate to this character of Truman to his previous characters in his previousfilms. Including his traits in the trailer was a marketing strategy to sell thefilm to audiences. If the distributors released a trailer with the more seriouselements of the film it would not have been as well received because of thelack of the Jim Carrey persona that audiences had grown to love over theprevious few years.
The Truman Show did receive mass critical acclaim14,even though it was first met with a mixed reaction. Audiences had become soengulfed in Carrey’s common mannerisms that they shocked and confused to why hewas playing a somewhat different role. Furthermore, we can link the change in comedyfilm Carrey was in to the star reception he received. Audiences had grown a tohim starring in slapstick comedies, especially after his rise in 199415.
The Truman Show was still a comedy.However, this time it was more of a black comedy with more serious elements. The poster of a movie is a very big selling point.
In most of his films,Carrey is front and centre. He is the selling point of movie; he will earn thecertain company the most money by just having his face on the poster. Theposters for his films all show Carrey’s persona. Whether it being him pullingan odd facial expression or him standing in a certain way16.Audiences can look at the poster and feel comforted and safe by the fact thatCarrey is playing his usual self in the film. So, the poster of The Truman Show would have gripped the audience as hisexpression is cheerful, what they are used to.
Carrey’s name was also the onlyname on the poster17,not Ed Harris or Laura Linney, who were both big actors as well. Therefore, thestudio must have known that Carrey was the main selling point and using one ofhis common facial expressions would make the audiences assume he’s playing thesame role. Jim Carrey’s star image has been constructed over time, throughouthis career. His image was made by film posters, performances in films, thepress and sometimes tabloid newspapers and magazines18.
Before The Truman Show’s release in1998, the cast did a press tour. Furthermore, Jim Carrey would do theinterviews on his own19,rather than doing interviews with his co-stars such as Ed Harris or possiblydirector Peter Weir. Interviewers always wanted Jim Carrey more than any otherthe other actors to talk about the TheTruman Show because he was the star in the film and in Hollywood at thetime. Conclusion To conclude, dark comedy TheTruman Show showed Jim Carrey in a much more different role to one thataudiences around the world were used to. He moved away from the slapstick genreand projected himself into a more serious role as Truman Burbank but still kepthis recognizable Carrey traits to the delight of the audience. The Truman Show also showed how much ofa star Carrey was at the time. With him being the only one included on theposter for the film and the only name printed at the top20.As previously mentioned, Carrey fits perfectly into Dyer’s ‘Theory of Stardom’21as he created his own persona to earn him more success in the long run.
I mentioned how the power of the media was constant throughout The Truman Show and how much of animpact it is having to modern day society. It shows the lengths people will goto achieve success and to earn money. The subject of Christianity isnoticeable, tying in with Truman’s desire to escape and rebel against whoeveris in charge of him, that being Christof. TheTruman Show was Jim Carrey’s first time in a more serious role that set apath for him to do more serious roles in the future, examples being The Man on the Moon22where he played controversial comedian Andy Kaufman and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind23starring alongside Kate Winslet. Therefore, this has shown that his star imagehas changed over time with him now avoiding the limelight and focusing more onprojects outside of Hollywood, yet still remaining one of Hollywood’s biggeststars24. 1Dyer, Richard. 1998.
Stars. (London: BFI Publishing)2Box Office Mojo. (1998). http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=trumanshow.htm 3Internet Movie Database.
(1998). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120382/awards?ref_=tt_aw. 4Maltby, Richard. 1995. Hollywood Cinema.
(Victoria, Oxford andMalden: Blackwell Publishing). 5Nelmes, Jill. 2012. Introduction to FilmStudies. Page 197. (London: Routledge)6Movieclips.
(2011). The Truman Show (5/9) Movie CLIP – DoSomething! (1998) HD. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U4-KZSoe6g. Accessed 7 December 20187Internet Movie Database.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098830/?ref_=nv_sr_1. 8Box Office Mojo.
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=mask.htm9Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=dumbanddumber.htm 10Box Office Mojo.
http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=aceventura.htm11Dyer, Richard. 1998. Stars. (London: BFI Publishing)12Willis, Andrew. 2004.
Film Stars: Hollywood and Beyond. (Manchester:Manchester University Press)13YouTube Movies. (2012). The Truman Show – Trailer.
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loTIzXAS7v4Accessed 8 December 201714Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/truman_show/15Uproxx (2014).What Jim Carrey Accomplished In 1994 May Never Be Repeated. Available at: http://uproxx.com/movies/what-jim-carrey-accomplished-in-1994-may-never-be-repeated/.
Accessed 9 December 201716 All Posters: http://www.allposters.co.
uk/-st/Jim-Carrey-Films-Posters_c790_.htm17IMP Awards: http://www.impawards.com/1998/truman_show_ver1.html18 Time Magazine: http://img.
(2017). Jim Carrey talks Ace Ventura, The Cable Guy,The Truman Show & Andy Kaufman. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_HXKKD8DgM.Accessed at December 8 2017 20IMP Awards: http://www.impawards.
com/1998/truman_show_ver1.html21Dyer, Richard. 1998. Stars.
(London: BFI Publishing)22Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125664/?ref_=nv_sr_223Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338013/?ref_=nv_sr_1