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The Independent Culture
The Truman Show (15)

Unfairly overlooked at the Oscars, Peter Weir's millennial daydream was one of the most mesmerising Hollywood movies in years. Meticulously thought-out and slyly provocative, it's a media satire that assumes the form of an egomaniac's ultimate paranoid fantasy - Big Brother is watching, and this time he's been joined by a worldwide television audience. In what was widely billed as his first dramatic role (ie, less mugging than usual), Jim Carrey plays an insurance salesman named Truman Burbank who lives with his maniacally cheerful wife (Laura Linney) in a picture-perfect town called Seahaven. But all is not what it seems: since birth, Truman has been the unwitting star of his own 24-hour TV show, the creation of a megalomaniac producer-director (Ed Harris). Hidden cameras are trained on Truman at all times; his wife, colleagues, and friends are actors; Seahaven is a giant domed set. Full credit to writer Andrew Niccol for pushing his outlandish premise well beyond cautionary TV-bashing. Not surprisingly, the film loses a good deal of its metaphysical impact on subsequent viewings, but its themes and subtexts continue to resonate - this is truly a movie of its age.

There's Something About Mary (15). Any film that opens with a shot of Jonathan Richman, the deadpan-romantic singer-songwriter, strumming his guitar in a tree is worth your while. Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the brothers responsible for the proudly sub- moronic Dumb and Dumber and the deranged Amish bowling farce Kingpin, try their hand at romantic comedy (well, actually, a romantic comedy about stalking), and the results are surprisingly winning. True, there are slack patches (and, invariably, some gags fall flat), but this film contains some of the funniest setpieces ever seen in a Hollywood movie. Vicious, vulgar, and, in its own way, irresistibly sweet, the film gets by on the Farrellys' almost surreally staunch commitment to low-brow humour, and the strength of the very game actors. As the dorky hero, Ben Stiller displays his usual infallible timing, and as the absurdly idealised high-school crush with whom he's still obsessed, Cameron Diaz remains improbably radiant, even in the face of unspeakable indignities.