UK Release Date: 17th November 2017
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Chris Smith
Starring: Jim Carrey
Synopsis: A look at the lengths Jim Carrey was prepared to go for his Method portrayal of eccentric entertainer Andy Kaufman in the film Man on the Moon, with Carrey reflecting on the impact his work has had on himself and others in the years following the film’s release.
While Man on the Moon never made it into my top ten favourite films list on the podcast, it still reigns high in my most loved films. It’s a heartfelt dedication to Andy Kaufman – an icon of comedy who opened the door for many alternative comedians and introduced new eyes to the world of professional wrestling. Not only this, but the film features a stunning performance by Jim Carrey, playing his idol. It’s been known that Carrey went full Method with his portrayal of Andy and rarely broke character on set, but extensive behind the scenes footage of the production has been kept locked away at Carrey’s estate. Until now.
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond manages to extend outside of simply revealing the footage filmed by Andy Kaufman’s girlfriend Lynne Margulies and his writing partner Bob Zmuda. It also features sit-down interviews with Carrey detailing his life, career and performance in Man on the Moon. What these interviews add and reveal is a genuine insight into Carrey’s creative process, his career and his philosophical viewpoints on life.
Carrey has made news recently with bizarre interviews where he rambles about metaphysical ideas at fashion shows and, if you thought he was crazy, then this documentary won’t change your mind. It will, however, give you a look at the human side of an actor known for playing nearly all his roles at the highest levels of bombast, complete with shouting and gurning.
There’s real heartbreak to be found in Carrey’s words in the interviews and in what appear to be moments of venting on set about how he sees himself and the weight of expectation surrounding his own personal identity. Carrey has been referred to as “the man of a thousand faces”, but the documentary communicates how hard it is when a creative person loses the idea of who they are. This goes further in footage from Carrey’s biggest roles that perfectly encapsulates the feelings of an actor on top of the world, but struggling with his identity.
Structurally, the documentary is nothing groundbreaking. Jim & Andy is dominated by behind the scenes footage and the interviews are all shot in a simple, two-camera setup. At times, it feels like set dressing for us to just see the footage people have been so curious about, but it does work in the film’s favour when it comes to creating sympathy for Carrey. Nearly all of his interview scenes take place with him staring directly into the camera. A documentary like The Imposter used this to demonstrate the convincing nature of a con man, but here it’s used to add intimacy and understanding as a man reels off philosophy that can either sound nonsensical or entirely life-affirming.
It’s a mesmerising documentary that uses aspects of Andy Kaufman’s career, Man on the Moon and Jim Carrey’s life and career to parallel the Method approach Carrey took in the role. Even if you’re just here for the archive footage, it provides an amazing look into an actor’s process and even what that approach can put other people through. A stand-off with wrestling legend Jerry Lawler is a highlight that even Carrey believes may have gone too far. Besides that footage, though, there’s a documentary here that’s intimate, emotionally resonant and at times incredibly uplifting.
When I first saw Jim & Andy, I was unsure whether Carrey is a mad man or a genius and I’m inclined to think it’s a bit of both. His words are still sticking with me and despite going into what I thought was simply an avenue to see footage of a film and performance I deeply admire, I got something more transcendent, thought-provoking and funny than I expected. And if that’s not the essence of Kaufman, I’m not sure what is.
Pop or Poop?
It may not be for everyone and some may not be able to stick Jim Carrey’s off the cuff philosophy, but Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is an incredibly engaging documentary about the uncanny portrayal of a man’s idol and an examination of the life and career of one of the biggest comedy stars of all time.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.