Review: Jim & Andy – The Great Beyond, Netflix

There are all sorts of legends about actors getting a bit too consumed by their roles. Was it Daniel Day Lewis who thought he was seeing his father's ghost when he played Hamlet? (it was, I just googled it). Now add Jim Carrey as anarchic comedian Andy Kaufman to the list.

Director Chris Smith's film tells the story of the making of Man on the Moon, the 1999 biopic of Kaufman that was helmed by Milos Foreman. It is remarkable to watch and also at times both moving and disturbing as thanks to extensive archive footage we hear and see Carrey continuing to be Kaufman with him long after the cameras have stopped rolling.

Kaufman, who died in 1984, was a famously wayward comic but some of Carrey's stunts revealed here almost surpass him. At one point Carrey seems to drive a car onto the film set with a paper bag over his head, inevitably crashing into a wall. At another point he has to be carried to the make-up van because he is drunk. Or something. Or maybe that's just acting.

Director Foreman, who made One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, so should know a bit about madness, doesn't seem to know at times whether he is talking to Jim, Andy or and Kaufman's own alter ego, obnoxious crooner Tony Clifton during the shoot. Maybe he is humouring Carrey to get a performance out of him, or maybe, as Carrey suggests in a revealing up-to-date interview in the film, Foreman was intimidated by Tony Clifton.

There are some truly remarkable stories here. One anecdote, captured on camera tells how Carrey was invited to the Playboy Mansion, but instead Kaufman's friend Bob Zmuda went in the guise of Tony Clifton. It was assumed he was Carrey as he danced and mingled with Hugh Hefner and various guests. Until Jim Carrey walked in. Zmuda was promptly ejected...

There is also the strangely moving sight of Carry in character meeting members of Kaufman's family. They seem to be genuinely moved by Carrey - not just in regard to his performance, but as if Andy Kaufman has returned for some kind of closure.

And then there are the scenes with wrestler Jerry Lawler who wrestled with Kaufman and then played himself in Man on the Moon, recreating some of their encounters on and offstage. The genial grappler says he had a good friendship with Kaufman but Carrey pushes things to the limit, provoking Lawler by taunting him to the point where Lawler has to be held back on set from getting seriously physical with the actor.

All of which makes this a compelling account of the film-making process and much more. On top of this there's a look at Carrey's own career. He was always a fan of Kaufman and maybe Kaufman left his mark and Carrey became more unpredictable, more provocative. After Man on the Moon Carrey appeared on Arsenio Hall's chat show pretending to be drunk and called Hall a "black bastard". The programme promptly goes to a break as Carrey rolls on the floor.

This is a real headfuck of a film just to watch. So imagine what it must have been like for Carrey to play Kaufman.

Watch on Netflix.


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