Man on the Moon is one of my top ten favorite films of all time. From the first moment I saw the film, I felt that Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Andy Kaufman was superb. For sure, nobody else could have played that part. It took a special understanding of Andy Kaufman to play that part, and, man, did Jim Carrey have that understanding. I knew, from watching the film and from reading about it ages ago, that Carrey delve deep into this role. But, until this documentary, I didn’t realize how deep he had dove. And, it never occurred to me how diving that deep could affect a person.
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond takes the behind the scenes footage that Universal held for nearly 20 years and shows us Carrey’s process. It shows us what it took for him to play that part. But, it does more than that. It continuously draws comparisons between Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman, binding them together in a way that can never really be undone.
There were a lot of things that I loved about this documentary. I loved the behind the scenes footage (but I always love behind the scenes footage, so that’s nothing new). I loved getting to hear what the cast of the television show Taxi had to say about Carrey’s portrayal of Kaufman and their feelings on Carrey remaining in character as Kaufman for the entirety of the filming. Danny DeVito’s reaction and Judd Hirsch’s reaction were probably my favorite. They both seemed amazed and…how do I want to put this…creeped out? Not in a bad way, though. It seemed eerie to them, how spot on Carrey was. I mean, think about it. Carrey was portraying a man that they all had worked with, a man that they all knew, a man that had died much too young, and a man that gave them all headaches at one point or another. It had to be weird to see him embodied again in this young Canadian man. The most touching moment had to be when the people who were close to Andy Kaufman commented on Carrey’s portrayal. Kaufman’s brother and his sister, and his girlfriend all commenting on it, reacting to it, was unbelievable. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what that would be like. Therapeutic maybe? I absolutely became teary eyed in those moments.
The only thing that rivals Carrey’s portrayal of Andy Kaufman is Carrey’s portrayal of Kaufman’s alter ego, Tony Clifton (who has received a producing credit on this, by the way. Keep an eye on those opening titles). I can only imagine the frustration that Milos Forman went through trying to get Tony Clifton to cooperate. But, bless Milos Forman for finding the patience somewhere deep down inside of him and finishing this film.
Do I think Carrey took it to far at times? Well, does it actually matter what I think about it? I think that he delve head first into a character and was free. He talks about it, himself, in the film. He was free. He was not Jim Carrey. The pressures of his life were not there. He was Andy Kaufman (sometimes Tony Clifton, those poor people).
As I stated at the beginning of this post, it never occurred to me the difficulty somebody may have with coming out of a role such as this one. To hear Carrey talk about it, talk about having to figure out who he was after the role, I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed so much of what Carrey had to say in this documentary. But, my favorite quote would have to be when he is first discussing figuring out who he was as a performer, when he was trying to figure out what the audience wanted. He talks about trying to figure this out, and then he talks about waking up one night, out of a dead sleep, and sitting up in bed with one realization: they want to be free from concern. And I’ve never heard anything truer in my entire life.
All in all, this documentary was well made, engaging, and eye opening. And, it gave me a deeper respect for Carrey as a performer, showing me how dedicated he is to his roles, and showing me how it is just as hard to come back out of them.