Man on the Moon

Comic genius: Carrey and Love

dir Milos Forman
scr Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
with Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti, Vincent Schiavelli, Peter Bonerz, Gerry Becker, Leslie Lyles, Jerry Lawler, George Shapiro, Bob Zmuda, Budd Friedman, Marilyn Sokol, Lorne Michaels, Christopher Lloyd, Marilu Henner, Judd Hirsch, Carol Kane, Jeff Conaway, David Letterman, Paul Schaffer, Richard Belzer, Norm Macdonald
Universal 99/US 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Alexander and Karaszewski and they seem to be carving a rather nice niche for themselves with quirky film bios (Ed Wood, The People vs Larry Flynt). These are intelligent, witty and fiercely clever films--at the same time entertaining, nostalgic and revealing ... and resisting the urge to answer every question about the person concerned. For Man on the Moon they're reteamed with Larry Flynt director Forman, and the result is predictably stunning.

Jim Carrey crawls into the skin of Andy Kaufman, the 70s/80s comedian who broke all the rules and entertained by making his audience feel uneasy and perplexed. The film follows his early standup, the years as Latka on Taxi, his wrestling antics and his death at 35 from a rare form of cancer. The period details are extremely authentic (nothing cheap or obvious) and, fascinatingly, Kaufman's real costars appear in many of the scenes (including a near-complete Taxi reunion). Instead of peeling away the layers and finally giving us the Real Andy after all these years, the filmmakers give us the Andy all his close friends and colleagues knew--someone nearly as enigmatic as the guy we saw on TV.

All of this makes the film a bit infuriating ... especially as I remember being infuriated by Kaufman's antics originally and was hoping for a bit of an explanation here. But the film is brilliantly structured both for Kaufman fans like me and for those who have never heard of him. And Carrey is astoundingly good in the complex and tricky role, even if I never suspended my disbelief (it was Carrey not Kaufman). He also gets terrific support from DeVito (in a rare warmhearted role as Kaufman's agent), Love (as his girlfriend) and Giamatti (as his best friend and partner in crime). With Kaufman's friends serving as executive producers on this film, it's all a bit generous and adoring. But Forman also captures both Kaufman's anarchic sense of performance art and a wicked streak of irony that makes the story meaningful on several levels. A fascinating, deeply entertaining film about a man who was impossible to define.

[15--adult themes and situations, language] 13.Jan.00
US release 24.Dec.99; UK release 5.May.00

See also the backstage doc: JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND (2017)

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"Directed by Milos Forman. A difficult film to rate - and to watch. Tells the story of minor celebrity Andy Kaufman - who may be remembered from the popular American sitcom of the '70s Taxi where he played the car mechanic; who, according to this film, spent most of his life trying to entertain the masses with his own material, and usually failed miserably. It makes one wonder how anyone thought a film about a man who was a failed entertainer would make for an entertaining film. However, it isn't a complete waste of time and it does shine some light on Andy's character and personality, but it does take its time, the viewer will have to be patient, and will probably wonder by the time the credits roll if it was worth it." --Jeff Greenhalgh 19.Nov.02

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© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall