In 1999 Jim Carrey starred in the incredible Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon.” During the production, eighteen years ago, he documented the entire behind the scenes process. The controversial and newsworthy shoot lived in the realm of Hollywood movie making fable; until now.
Sitting in a chair wearing a crisp black leather jacket and a swarthy beard is the increasingly reclusive 90s comedy megastar Jim Carrey. As Carrey stares at the lens, and into your very soul from the comfort of your lounge, director Chris Smith perched behind the camera begins gently probing him with questions.
As you’re staring into the ‘zen’ face of Carrey, as he begins to articulate the spiritual depths that he began to immerse himself in for the role of his idol, Charlie Kaufman; “Jim & Andy” blooms into a form of test. In some ways, as we begin we hear Carrey’s mellifluous voice explaining his immersion, you may reflexively reject the notion. However, one may have the experience of this reviewer and you’re willing to accept the hypnotic quality of his recollections.
Formally, “Jim & Andy” is an assembly; the majority of the film is the footage from the madness of the set, sprinkled with some stock footage for context of Carrey’s career and illuminating the studio’s hesitation to keep the strange happenings that occurred on set, only for those who were there. Director Chris Smith’s focus and cinematographer Brantley Gutierrez’s steady hand wants to keep an objective calm during the interview process. The increasing chaos of the set, the mania of Carrey’s dual roles and the havoc on set are presented and Carrey’s quiet interrogation reflects on his state of mind. Editor Barry Poltermann’s role, which he performs admirably, is to temper the chaos of the first hand documentary footage with the calm of the interview with Carrey. This evolves as the film progresses to an immersion; as we watch Carrey’s devastating plunge into the experiencing Kaufman’s death by proxy.
It’s absolutely natural in the first instance to think that this entire exercise could be a record of peak performer egomania, imposing their method on this village of creatives. What’s harder to ignore is how Carrey’s possession begins to haunt the entire crew, and beyond. Director Milos Foreman assembled an incredible team of performers and real life Kaufman collaborators to melt the distinction between biopic fiction and historical recreation. On set comedic actors like Judd Hirsch and Carol Kane (Kaufman’s co-stars playing themselves in the film) are stunned with Carrey’s aura. Kaufman’s own family begins, in a devastating expression of grief, ritualistically visiting set to ‘see their son.’
Jim & Andy is an experience that left me reeling. While you may not believe Carrey’s assertion that he was voluntarily possessed by the spirit of his idol to enact this biopic with his blessing; it’s impossible not to be enraptured with his belief. Carrey may have a touch of madness, but there’s no doubt that’s the burden of great genius.
Directed by: Chris Smith
Cinematography by: Brantley Gutierrez
Film Editing by: Barry Poltermann
Featuring (as themselves): Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Milos Forman, Paul Giamatti, Judd Hirsch, Carol Kane, Andy Kaufman, Janice Kaufman, Stanley Kaufman, Jerry Lawler, Courtney Love, Lynne Margulies, Bob Zmuda
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