Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Paul Giamatti, Gerry Becker, Leslie Lyles, George Shapiro, Vincent Schiavelli, Peter Bonerz, Patton Oswalt, Courtney Love, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, Jeff Conway, Carol Kane, Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd.
There is anarchy and then there is the big joke, the moment when they collide is often the most brutal in which an audience can be manipulated into showing their true worth to the performance, to show at times the hypocritical face as the conflict of love and anger at the artist on stage mix and explode like a stick of gelignite in a swimming pool. You cannot but help feel the sense of the exploited but you can also marvel at the precision of the joke played out. The joke is for everyone, it is only for the performer to truly understand and in between them stands the Man on the Moon looking down and relishing the comedic punch line.
Andy Kaufman was a genius, in the period he lived in he was rightly appreciated by many, perhaps despised by those whose didn’t understand. In the era when Jim Carrey played him to great effect, he was revered and the shame of it is that this time we find ourselves in, is bland, almost satire free, and sterile. It would have been perfect for him and yet it has to be noted that in many ways he would been destroyed by the modern world who would have taken all the stunts he pulled much more to heart and would have made a public pariah of him; perfect for the age, the age not able to cope with him.
Man on the Moon may be almost 20 years now, the contrasting fortunes of its major star, Jim Carrey is perhaps much publicised but to take on the role of Andy Kaufman in the first place was always going to a fraught adventure, two incredibly appreciated comedic actors of their time, both with demons, both masterminds and taking an audience to the uncomfortable anarchy before pulling back slightly as the reveal has a personal light shone deeply on it. In many respects Jim Carrey, for this film is perhaps at his very best, not madcap or offbeat as he is in the Ace Venture films, not slapstick as in The Mask, not philosophical as in The Truman Show and not shamefully reduced to comic caper back drop and almost stereo-type as when playing The Riddler, this is Jim Carrey at his most brilliant, perhaps arguably most sincere and certainly most reverential.
With Paul Giamatti and Danny DeVito adding a glorious edge to the film and providing an almost devil on one shoulder and intrigued angel on the other, both whispering into the ears of their friend and client, the film really captures the moment of the man’s life with punishing realism and aching joy. How can you not love the child like, how is possible to ignore a man like Andy Kaufman. Perhaps in the world as it is today, suspicious, rotten in its conservatism and removed of much of the humour that made the post war era so bearable, Andy Kaufman would have been forgotten, reduced to being wheeled out for specials and the cling to nostalgia. However, perhaps he would have also taken the anarchy further; he would have held a mirror up to the face of such times and made it laugh.
A wonderfully produced film, Man on the Moon reminds us just what we are missing, and what we sought to destroy, the creative, boundless, free expression of humanity at its most beautiful.
Ian D. Hall