TV-MA and it totally should be. When Jim Carrey decided to wear Andy Kaufman like a suit, he took on everything that Kaufman did. Kaufman himself was pretty raunchy. He swore. He hung out with naked ladies. He drank and he smoked. He was mean and kind of a jerk. Jim Carrey, in the few times that he was Jim, also swore a lot and got angry a lot. So this movie is a well-earned TV-MA.
DIRECTOR: Chris Smith
In college, I got into Andy Kaufman hard. Okay, it was probably junior year of high school, but I think it was because of the movie Man on the Moon. I saw that the movie was coming out and it looked so interesting. Before the movie came out, and I now realize that this is very telling of my personality, I found out everything I could about Andy Kaufman. I got so many bootleg tapes of Kaufman's performances and I just read up as much as I could about the guy. When the biopic came out, I remember annoying everyone explaining what was really going on in certain scenes. I kept up this obsession for a long time after this movie. While I ended up owning the DVD for a while (because I owned everything. This is the era of me stalking the $5.00 bin at Walmart with reckless abandon), but I had consumed everything that Andy had done in a very short amount of time. (Oddly enough, I never watched Taxi because Kaufman hated it.) But you could count me as one of the surprised to hear that there was a documentary that was turning heads about the making of Man on the Moon. I didn't rush to watch it. I just finished watching it minutes ago. And I'm not sure that this is a documentary about Jim Carrey's relationship with Andy Kaufman or an excuse for Jim Carrey to dive deeper into madness.
Jim Carrey's been weirding me out lately. I saw that Fashion Week thing he did. While I love the message that he is saying, he is coming across like an absolute madman. Jim & Andy might be more of a study exploring where Jim Carrey started going absolutely nuts. LOOSE SPOILERS: During the filming of Man on the Moon, Jim decided to try method acting. We're talking deep-end-of-the-ocean method acting. He was going to pull a Daniel Day Lewis and stay in character as Andy Kaufman / Tony Clifton the entire time on set. He mostly succeeds. I get the logic behind this choice. Andy Kaufman was a performance artist. He loved subverting expectations with stunt performances. But this is where things start falling apart. Jim Carrey becoming Andy Kaufman all the time was the public Andy Kaufman. He was the guy who messed with people and intentionally wanted to make people mad at him. That was his performance. Yes, I believe that he carried that darkness into his real life. How could you not? But Andy Kaufman created something that was genius and Jim Carrey wanted to live in that. The movie is mostly about Jim Carrey making everyone on set miserable. Prime example: one of the things that I really enjoyed about Man on the Moon was the fact that they got a lot of the original people involved in Andy's life to recreate the moments on set. That was super cool. One of the people in Andy's life was Jerry Lawler. The bit that was always televised and discussed was the fact that Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman were bitter enemies and that Lawler would physically assault Andy Kaufman after being provoked by Kaufman. The thing is, it was a bit. Both Lawler and Kaufman were in on the gag. Lawler talks about that in this documentary. He considered Andy Kaufman a good friend. That's why he agreed to do the movie. But Carrey (as Andy --and let me tell you it is annoying to hear Jim Carrey refer to "Andy" being in charge) would harass Lawler on set constantly. He would drop eggs on him. He'd put signs on his back. Every time that Lawler walked into a room, "Andy" would be really mean to the guy. The reason that Kaufman worked is because you never knew what was real and what was fake. Yeah, there's a chance that the Lawler / Carrey stuff was fake. It would be wildly meta if it was. But there seems to be no indication of that. There's a scene where "Andy" apologizes to Lawler and I think that Lawler begrudgingly accepts. But it is complete manipulation. He does this so Lawler really hits him on screen. The studio didn't want Carrey manhandled, so Carrey made fake amends to do something that the studio wouldn't like. It's stupid. He did this with everyone. The problem with this is that the documentary stresses how great this thing is. Everyone hated Jim Carrey on set, but were so glad that he did this. Malarky.
MAN ON THE MOON / HISTORY SPOILER: Andy Kaufman died of cancer. In those last few months, Kaufman was desperate for a cure, so he traveled to experimental treatment centers to find help. During this time, "Andy" / Carrey would be escorted everywhere in a wheelchair. He acted infirmed and in pain. People would cry and hug him, worried about losing their friend Andy. I can't believe that life can just be an impersonation. I refuse to believe that. I have a theatre degree. You know I do because I spelled "Theater" with "R-E". I'm actually a big fan of the method, but there is a line in the sand where you have to completely believe in the character, but still compartmentalize the character at the same time. Carrey, in the framing interview, discusses how he met with Kaufman's real daughter who was given up for adoption. She never got to meet her father, so she had a sit-down with "Andy" for a little over an hour. They talked about how much they loved each other. They didn't love each other. This is the equivalent of seeing a medium. If someone did a really good impression of my father, I would just leave mad. I don't care if they got every nuance and really looked like him. That's messed up. By the way, this anecdote is one of the only kind of positive things that came out of this whole experiment. Honestly, "Andy" was really an excuse for Jim Carrey to do whatever he wanted and to say whatever he wanted without repercussion. That wasn't Andy Kaufman. People had real relationships with the man. It got even worse when he played Tony Clifton. For those who don't know about Kaufman's history, Kaufman had a character named Tony Clifton, a raucous lounge singer who would taunt his audience. He insisted that he was never Tony Clifton and that Tony Clifton was a separate person. I love that. He also had a double for Clifton, his friend Bob Zmuda. But Clifton is Andy Kaufman's antagonism ramped up to 100. "Clifton" is so mean to everyone in this film in the name of art. I'm sure that Andy Kaufman did stuff to people, but c'mon.
A lot of this speaks to privilege. Like, seriously. This is becoming a thing. I think the whole "method" thing is getting to finally be disdainful. Marlon Brando was a huge jerk to everyone because he didn't want to do his job. Jared Leto was a bad person. That wasn't the Joker. The Joker is a comic book character who wouldn't send condoms to people. Jim Carrey being mean to people as Andy Kaufman both sullies Andy Kaufman's name and kind of ruins Man on the Moon for me. (I totally didn't realize that Milos Foreman directed that movie. He's a saint and I still love him.) If I was in a community theatre (there it is!) production of Man on the Moon (which might actually get me to act again), I couldn't go around and harass everyone in my daily life and do whatever I want because I was channeling someone else. I would get fired and arrested. People wouldn't be friends with me anymore. The fact that he does all this stuff just indicates that Hollywood is a different place. Literally yesterday, I was defending Hollywood to my brother-in-law, but watching everyone losing their minds over Jim Carrey's genius just got my blood pumping. The only thing that might give Carrey a bit of a pass is the fact that some of the people who knew Andy thought this was genius. Still, they showed Carrey's audition tape before he decided to become "Andy" and his impression was great. Would it have been the end of the world if he just became "Andy" for the scenes and went back to being a human being? Or be "Andy", but like how "Andy" would be during the downtime? You know, like eating a hamburger? Hanging out with friends? That Andy?
This movie. It's not awful. I enjoyed watching it. It was enlightening, but I kind of hate that this kind of stuff goes on. It just made me think about how much of a turd Jim Carrey was and kind of is. Also, I really like vaccines. Take that, Jim Carrey and your Alan Moore beard. Finally, the connection to the song "The Great Beyond" is really forced. The movie really tried making the R.E.M. song important and had Tony Clifton singing it over the credits. It does nothing. The title came first. The documentary came second. I have to believe that.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.