It remains to be seen whether you’re watching an obnoxious actor indulging in selfish instincts or an acting genius talk about his greatest performance
JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND – FEATURING A VERY SPECIAL, CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED MENTION OF TONY CLIFTON (Chris Smith). 94 minutes. Streaming on Netflix Friday (November 17). Rating: NNNN
Based on the behind-the-scenes footage of Jim Carrey being very, very difficult on the set of Milos Forman’s Andy Kaufman biopic Man On The Moon, it’s a miracle that film was ever completed, and another miracle that it’s as good as it is.
Chris Smith’s new documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring A Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention Of Tony Clifton will make you wonder if it was all worth it.
Jim & Andy interweaves behind-the-scenes footage of Carrey shot during the making of Man On The Moon by documentary filmmaker Lynne Margulies, who was also Kaufman’s real-life girlfriend (Courtney Love played her in Forman’s film) with a contemporary interview with Carrey, conducted by Smith in a nondescript room.
Whether you think you’re watching a genius discuss his greatest performance or an obnoxious actor indulging in and subsequently justifying his most pretentious, selfish instincts will probably depend on your own personal theories of acting, and how much you admire the man on the screen. (Either way, it’s fascinating.)
Smith, whose other documentaries include American Movie, The Yes Men and Collapse, remains non-judgmental, letting Carrey talk about his commitment to the roles of Kaufman and alter ego Tony Clifton and the support he received from the late actor’s family and friends. And there’s plenty of footage of Carrey on the set, interacting with people who actually knew Kaufman – like his writing partner Bob Zmuda and half the cast of Taxi.
We also get to watch Carrey-as-Andy, and Carrey-as-Andy-as-Tony, do everything he can to derail the movie, unsettle his co-workers and disrupt Universal Studios itself, even barging into the nearby offices of Amblin Entertainment demanding to see Steven Spielberg. All of it was deemed necessary at the time for Carrey to find his performance now, we’re clearly watching an actor terrified he won’t be able to recapture the genius of an artist he idolized.
I would applaud Carrey for sharing this footage of himself at his most insecure, but I’m not entirely sure that’s how he sees it. He speaks earnestly of resurrecting Kaufman for his family and friends, doing everything he can to frame his work as brave and debilitating. And I kept thinking about Laurence Olivier’s infamous advice to Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man: “My dear boy, why don’t you just try acting?”