Man on the Moon

dr. Milos Forman
str. Jim Carrey, Danny De Vito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti

"Hey Andy are you goofin' on Elvis, Hey Baby! Are we havin' fun?" -

Man On The Moon, REM

I hate Jim Carrey. And this isn't going to be an ironic, "I hate him so much, he's such a genius" platitude to the man. No. I hate his goofy retard impersonations. I hate his self-glorifying award acceptance speeches, always cheered by the rest of the (American) audience. I hate the man ever since he defected from In Living Color to the organs of populist, dumbed down Hollywood. But this movie, more interesting as a snapshot of life and comedy circa late 1970s than a vaunted movie about seminal comedian Andy Kaufman, makes me hate him more.

Kaufman's self-label as "a song and dance man", and designation as a dadaist comedian both obscure his role as a group psychosociologist. Openly admitting that he wanted to "test how other people deal with reality", he never left a character and carried out elaborate and lengthy charades, such as a career in apparently misogynist wrestling. His personality wasn't just split - by all accounts the man was bona fide blessed with multiple personality disorder, some of whom were geared to garner as much hate as possible as quickly as possible. Kaufman disliked his fame, saying that it stole the surprise value he had in making the audience laugh, which is unfortunately much like any cinema audience, who were in rollicking guffaw-mode initially and then became softer and softer when it became obvious that the drama was at least as important as the comedy. Carrey runs hard and fast with this complicated many-edged ball and doesn't fumble once, which is a total fucking surprise given his other way out characterizations in inappropriate roles. But here, here, his performance is all whiskey and sugarwater, delicacy of tone with the shocking insanity of Andy Kaufman's mad mad life. Kaufman's biography reads like the history of a postmodern superhero, with his career as a misogynist wrestler, Elvis impersonator, rumours that his death in 1984 were staged, and frequent improvisations on television which inflamed producers but always left audiences wondering whether they had just watched a bona fide performance or some seriously fucked up mistake.

I hate Jim Carrey, I hate him so much, he's such a genius. He answers perfectly the koanesque question, Who's to know, what is reality, and what isn't? A theory-laden question, but answered in practical terms by Kaufman. He was one to challenge the nature of reality and the un-understandably comfortable relationship people had with this hydraheaded and confusing entity, filtered through the television glow, and Carrey somehow manages to translate this across the celluloid. The directorship of this movie (in Milos Forman's hands) is less astute and turns the movie into a hype-o-genic piece of sentimentality, a rare example of the actor probably knowing more about the character than the director. It is perfect for the high gloss world of movies (not film, movies - ironic given Danny de Vito's comments about how packaged entertainment is, and how Kaufman challenged these conceptions), and totally inappropriate for this particular character. Another irritating Forman factor is Courtney Love's role. I've only

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seen 3 movies with significant parts by Love - 200 Cigarettes, The People Versus Larry Flynt, and Man On The Moon. Love plays a headstrong and liberated pseudoslut in 200 Cigarettes, a headstrong and liberated Hustler model in Larry Flynt, and a headstrong and liberated normal woman in Man On The Moon. Hmmm. I see some stereotyping and range conflation in these here woods. The only allowance that Forman makes for Kaufman's guerilla methods is a section at the beginning with Carrey as Kaufman acknowledging that he is Carrey. It is a brilliant triple entendre, a standard sadly unrepeated throughout the rest of the movie with its focus on biopic realism. It is frustrating by the end of the movie, a feeling of being cheated, that this movie details Kaufman's madness and methods without giving us any challenges. The coda especially is disappointing, one that acknowledges the continuing legend of Kaufman (is he actually still alive?) through the licked camera lens of saccharine nostalgia rather than a further confusion of Kaufman's true identity which is disappointingly against the relentless tide of Kaufman's manipulative genius.

Huan Tzin Goh
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