December 22, 1999
Carrey lands loony moduleActor brilliantly captures manic Andy Kaufman
By BRUCE KIRKLAND - Toronto Sun
Jim Carrey may be as certifiably loony as the late Andy Kaufman, the brilliant if unfunny comic whom Carrey plays in Man On The Moon.
But being brave, brazen and nuts enough to go all the way is precisely what makes Carrey's performance a stunning revelation in this bizarre and fascinating film.
A completely sane actor might have compromised, tried to make Kaufman more likable, more Hollywood and less acerbic. And less Tony Clifton, of course. All of which would have ultimately made him less interesting.
Kaufman was a performance artist who seemed far happier to gross or shock people in a wrestling ring than to romance them. Carrey captures that essence perfectly, even though the film deliberately refuses to peel off all of Kaufman's layers.
Kaufman remains an enigma, perplexingly so, and facts are deliberately bent out of shape for story-telling purposes. But it's still a harrowing, thrilling experience. Carrey is crazy like a fox. So it's time to trot out the Oscar hardware or at least give the Canadian comedian an Oscar nomination as best actor.
Carrey was robbed on The Truman Show. His work here is even better. He is more committed and less predictable. He is electric on screen, a live wire that zaps everyone else on screen with megawatt energy right from the ingenious monologue that introduces (and insults) the film and its opening credits.
Carrey is not alone, of course, except in the surreal intro. He couldn't hold us spellbound for two hours solo, not if Man On The Moon was to be as emotionally poignant as it becomes.
So Danny DeVito, who also developed the project as a producer and knew Kaufman as a co-star on the TV series Taxi, appears in a terrific supporting turn as Kaufman's agent, George Shapiro. The only oddity about that is that, when we see most of the Taxi squad briefly reunited on screen, DeVito is missing, of course. It's a small price to pay for DeVito's grace, wit and presence in the rest of the film as Shapiro.
Another gift is the wonderful performance by Courtney Love as Kaufman's girlfriend Lynne Margulies, the woman he loved and who nourished him when he died of cancer in 1984.
I never thought I'd live long enough to see rocker Love perform a scene in a movie that would legitimately make me cry -- but she does so in Man On The Moon. With her face (and attitude) softened and refined, Love lives up to her last name.
Credit for a lot of the success of the film has to go to director Milos Forman, of course. He keeps the story moving -- and emotionally moving -- without intruding on Carrey & company's dazzling acting. Which must have been an enormous chalenge considering the unusual -- and possibly disturbing -- way that Carrey approached his role as a prolonged and self-indulgent performance piece, as Kaufman used to do.
Kudos also to Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski for their smart if elusive script for the piece.
Man On The Moon demands attention. It's one small step for Hollywood, one giant leap for Jim Carrey.