Few studies of Hollywood method acting are likely to feature Jim Carrey. Brando? Naturally. De Niro? Definitely. But Ace Ventura? The Mask? The father of modern slapstick? Alrighty then…
In 1999 Carrey portrayed his hero Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, a biopic of the legendary comedian and entertainer. Directed by Miloš Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), the picture explored Kaufman’s groundbreaking career and penchant for bizarre, deliberately confusing live performances, ranging from incomprehensible bongo-backed songs to full readings of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Though Man on the Moon was a commercial flop, Carrey won significant critical acclaim (and his second Golden Globe) for his turn as Kaufman. Only with the release Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, however, has the story come full circle. Out now on Netflix and billed as a behind-the-scenes documentary – developed from 100+ hours of footage long kept private by Carrey at the insistence of Universal – Jim & Andy reveals the insane nature of Man on the Moon’s production, during which Carrey refused to break character. For the entire shoot he acted, interacted and outright lived as either Kaufman or his foul-mouthed lounge singer alter-ego, Tony Clifton.
The whole thing is a strange, altogether fascinating experience. As you might expect, the footage is downright hilarious at times. Watching a number of established Hollywood players crumble and kowtow in the face of a single man’s childish antics serves as a glorious reminder of just how ridiculous the industry is once the glitz and glamour are stripped away. Present also are the numerous emotional reactions to Carrey’s full method approach. Not only do we witness the multiple near-breakdowns he induced amongst the production team, but also the touching interactions he has with Kaufman’s living family members; particularly his father, brother, and sister.
While the tale of how Man on the Moon came to be is the driving force, Jim & Andy becomes so much more as it morphs into a thorough retrospective and up-to-date examination of Carrey himself. Both he – the sole talking head – and director Chris Smith make the most of their opportunity to discuss how Carrey found his way into comedy, his journey from Toronto to Hollywood, and how his own off-the-wall spiritual side ties him to the original subject of Andy Kaufman in more ways than one.
With personal legal issues and red carpet rants coming to define Carrey’s public image in recent years, Jim & Andy is a welcome chance for fans to hear from the man they remember well, yet still barely know, and to be a fly-on-the-wall for one the more personal (and outrageous) chapters of his career. As detached from reality as he was, is, or will become, it is difficult not to find mirthful comfort in the image of Jim Carrey in character as Andy Kaufman in character as Tony Clifton – with a paper bag over his head – doing an impression of Jackie Kennedy.
Watch it. And be happy.
Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond is now available to stream on Netflix. Let us know what you think of it.