For those that have seen the few appearances of Jim Carrey in the past few years, he seems to be taking life less serious than most in his industry. His red-carpet interview earlier this year, taken outside of the Harper’s Bazaar Plaza party, was further evidence for this notion. It seems that Carrey had accepted the futility of life, intermixing his previously comedic tone with New Age wisdom. Referring to the questioning of his presence at the party, Carrey responds, “I wanted to come to the most meaningless thing I could come to,” and that there, “is no me.” The Carrey that so many had come to seemingly know — star of “Ace Ventura,” “The Mask,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “The Truman Show,” etc. — had been replaced by what sounded like Eckhart Tolle. But perhaps, beneath the goofy faces, silly impersonations, and foolish voices, the actor Jim Carrey was never a part of those movies; instead, the characters were just as human, appearing as they were on the screen — Ace Ventura, Stanley Ipkiss, Lloyd Christmas, Fletcher Reede, Truman Burbank, etc.
In 1999’s biographical comedy-drama “Man on the Moon,” Jim Carrey took on the role of playing both Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton. Netflix’s recently released documentary “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond” is evident that the latter sentiment, as presented above, is true: that Jim Carrey had been vanquished from the filming of each movie he has starred in; rather, he became the very characters through some cosmic transcendence.
“Jim & Andy” is presented through current day interviews with Jim Carrey — who is dressed in a black leather jacket, sporting a raucous, untrimmed beard, and glaring through eyes wild with spiritual freedom — and backstage footage from the film set of “Man on the Moon,” shot by Lynne Marguiles, Kaufman’s longtime girlfriend, and his confidant Bob Zmuda. The footage, which lay hidden for nearly two decades within Carrey’s home, was previously withheld due to, per Universal Studio’s own words, the fact that it would have given audiences the perception that Carrey was an “asshole.” (Which, there are more than enough instances throughout this documentary that viewers might believe this, with Carrey’s method acting sometimes pushing fellow actors and film personnel to their own breaking points.)
The term to focus on here, regarding Carrey’s performance, is method acting. Carrey touts the comedic and artistic genius of Kaufman throughout the film, particularly in the beginning, in which he defines Kaufman’s supreme success and uniqueness through a story of his own artistic revelation: that his needs were separate from the needs of the audience, and what the audience actually needed was not Carrey’s comedy, but to be “free from concern.” He realized that he must embody a man “free from concern” while on the stage, because only then would the audience be able to separate themselves from their preconceptions and concerns, reveling in the joy that came from this revelation. For Carrey, this Jekyll & Hyde performance, switching drivers within the same vehicle, was the embodiment of Andy Kaufman’s ethos.
The behind-the-scenes footage presented in the documentary, along with Carrey’s modern day interviews, creates the notion that this was the role that Carrey was meant to play. Kaufman’s own family, upon visiting the set, seemed to believe that they were in the presence of a living Andy, back from the dead. He knew the character for who he was, or, as Carrey even believes, the best interpretation that he could manifest.
As spoken through the film’s interviews, Carrey, one of the biggest box office stars in the 90s, states that even he was long worried with others perception of him. However, he found his success by relinquishing his confusion and disappointment in his stardom, deciding it was better to live a life beyond the Jim Carrey that everyone seemed to know, stating, “That’s fascinating to me now: the disappearing.” Taking on the role of Kaufman, a character seemingly uninterested in what others thought of him, and who was equally willing to blur the lines between comedy/acting and reality, was an essential part in the transition of himself. By eliminating the character of Jim Carrey from the set of the film, he was able to truly become the man before everyone’s eyes, not someone performing an impersonation of him.
The full title of the documentary, “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton,” while requiring a long breath to recite, is a perfect summation of the characters appearing in both the documentary and the film “Man on the Moon.” “Jim” is simply Jim Carrey, as appearing in interviews in the 2017 documentary; “Andy” is Andy Kaufman, his spirit in the flesh, in the 1999 “Man on the Moon”; “Tony Clifton” features the brief appearances of said character, separate from Kaufman, within “Man on the Moon.” Each is a separate man, unique in their own right. The roles and their actions, as Carrey states, simply “didn’t matter,” as their is no factual explanation for whether Carrey impersonated these characters or became the spiritual vehicle for their once earthly manifestations.
The role allowed Carrey to be “free from himself,” finally able to feel “relief” from the present and its caustic problems. He leaves the documentary with a parting bit of wisdom, insinuating that every one of us possesses the ability to be free from concern, and that we can transcend reality and bring love, joy, and passion to the present: “I wonder what would happen if I just became Jesus.”