Nearly twenty years after the release of “Man on the Moon,” a biopic based upon actor Andy Kaufman, behind-the-scenes footage is finally released in the form of this documentary, “Jim and Andy…”
Directed by: Chris Smith
Starring: Jim Carrey, Milos Forman, Lynn Margulies, Bob Zmuda
FULL DISCLOSURE: This documentary has re-opened my somewhat closeted obsession and fascination with the one and only Andy Kaufman, so I make no promises about the bias with which I am writing this review. 😊 Enjoy!
The wonder and awe of Andy Kaufman was excellently captured in the feature film “Man on the Moon” in 1999 and this documentary is a sort of look behind the curtain at the wizard, the wizard in this scenario being Jim Carrey. As a huge, lapsed Kaufman fan, I was THRILLED to see behind the scenes footage of the biopic. It not only included scenes from the film, but also included archived footage from Kaufman’s actual life that certain scenes are inspired by. Seeing that side-by-side shows how incredible the writing and production of the film are, not to mention each of the actors’ performances. In fact, the ongoing conflict between Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman was my favorite part of the documentary, as Lawler came onto the project playing himself and you got to see how he reacted to the film during the filming, along with Carrey channeling Andy himself.
Carrey begins the documentary describing when he found out he would be portraying the legendary Kaufman and went on the explain that Andy took over him from that moment. From that antidote on, you are taken on an incredible journey through the transformation Carrey underwent, questioning whether Andy Kaufman really did “take over” or if Carrey is completely insane and may be one of the best/most intense method actors of our time. The documentary weaves in never-before-seen footage from the making of the film with commentary of Carrey, describing his experience creating the film. He maintains that while he was playing Andy, it was in fact Andy, and when he was playing Tony Clifton (a controversial lounge singer with a questionable identity) it was in fact Clifton, all the while, remaining in character well after Director Milos Forman yells “cut.” And although I love the idea and possibility of Andy Kaufman truly making one more piece of art for the Kaufman fans to sink their teeth into, I found myself more distracted by the fact that I can’t decipher if Jim Carrey has truly lost his mind or if he is just that committed to carrying on the beautiful fairy-tale that Andy was a part of the project.
Alongside that star-studded cast from the film (including Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti and Danny DeVito) the documentary includes Lynn Marguiles, Andy’s girlfriend, Bob Zmuda, Andy’s business partner and various family members of Kaufman, who all made Carrey’s claims seem more and more believable. At multiple times during the doc, there are moments where Kaufman’s family members are easily lost in the persona of Carrey as Kaufman making you credit Carrey with an incredible performance, if at the very least.
All in all, this cracked my Kaufman/Clifton obsession wide open and was almost a little disappointing after seeing behind the curtain; specifically learning the true identity of Tony Clifton AND watching the footage from Tony Clifton and Jim Carrey at the Playboy mansion. However how disappointed I was with losing some of the magical mystery behind Kaufman and Clifton (think about a child learning that Santa isn’t real, then realizing that means neither are the Tooth Fairy and Easter bunny) I did LOVE having more of a look at Kaufman’s life and legacy. If you are at all a Kaufman fan, lived during the time of Kaufman’s genius or loved the movie “Man on the Moon” because of Kaufman, Clifton or Carrey, I HIGHLY recommend this documentary. It truly honors the memory of Andy and showcases the vast range of Jim Carrey, a range many of us may have forgotten that he possesses.
Get your popcorn ready and prepare yourself to have the REM song stuck in your head for days to follow!