(2017) Documentary (Netflix) Jim Carrey, Andy Kaufman, Bob Zmuda, George Shapiro, Danny DeVito, Carol Kaufman, Judd Hirsch, Paul Giamatti, Stacey Sher, Milos Forman, Ron Meyer, Carol Kane, Bill Corso, Peter Bonerz, Michael Stipe, Jerry Lawler, Courtney Love, Gerry Becker, Elton John, Lynne Margulies, Linda Hill, Angela Jones. Directed by Chris Smith
Sometimes an actor will get so lost in their role that it’s nearly impossible to tell where the character ends and the actor begins. Is it art or is it simply self-indulgence?
Jim Carrey notoriously went through this when he was playing the late cult comic Andy Kaufman in Milos Forman’s Man in the Moon back in 1999. Carrey refused to break character during filming, even allowing the notorious lounge lizard/obnoxious jerk character Tony Clifton to take over, sometimes to uncomfortable lengths. Universal kept the backstage footage in the vaults for nearly 20 years before they finally allowed it to be shown in this documentary.
We get a sense of the method here and Carrey candidly discusses the strain of playing Kaufman and the way it effected his career. You get the sense that Carrey doesn’t enter any role lightly but this one did a number on him, as he admits to feeling the emotional after-effects for years afterwards. The documentary is well-filmed, utilizing footage filmed by Smith in 2016 as well as the backstage footage from the shoot in 1998 shot by Kaufman’s writing partner Zmuda and his girlfriend Margulies. Members of Kaufman’s family even came on set to commune with their deceased loved one (Kaufman passed away from lung cancer in 1984) in the form of Carrey.
I wasn’t a big fan of Man in the Moon when it came out but the documentary does give a better appreciation of the film. I wish that someone had asked Carrey the question that stays with me after seeing the doc: was the performance worth the pain? I suppose that’s a question for posterity to figure out.
REASONS TO SEE: Carrey comes off more thoughtful than you’d imagine. A portrait of a man lost in his role.
REASONS TO AVOID: Doesn’t ask some important questions.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s a bit of profanity and some nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Both Kaufman and Carrey share a birthday (January 17th).
BEYOND THE THEATER: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/19/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews: Metacritic: 767/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Lost in La Mancha
FINAL RATING: 7/10