Directed By Milos Forman
By: Eric G.
Man On The Moon is not a great movie, but it’s not Jim Carrey’s fault. Carrey had his part down pat. It’s partly director Milos Forman’s fault for even attempting to make a biographical film about a man as puzzling as Andy Kaufman was, but I guess he should get some points for good taste. Andy Kaufman is the reason this film doesn’t work. How could anyone really create an accurate account of a man who never switched off the persona? The press has been hounding anyone that even remotely knew Andy to give a little anecdote to gain some insight into what made Andy Kaufman tick. The stars all have their own first-hand experiences, but the same conclusion can be drawn from each one: nobody had any idea what on earth Andy Kaufman was really, truly like- not his parents- not even his live-in girlfriend.
Man On The Moon is amazing when it’s just Jim Carrey bringing Andy Kaufman back to life. Carrey’s versatile face morphs into Andy Kaufman’s, and it’s eerie. He doesn’t look like he’s miming Andy either. It’s truly bizarre. The crazy sketches that Andy made famous are all here, and Carrey handles each one with the same look of innocence and befuddlement that made Andy so strangely distant but endearing. From wrestling with women to Foreign Man, Carrey manages to pay tribute without wading in cheesy nostalgia and mockery. Imagine the pressure Carrey was under for this role. He beat out Edward Norton and Nicolas Cage for it. Everyone knows what Andy Kaufman looked and sounded like. It wasn’t even that long ago that he was on Saturday Night Live, so the expectations had to have been overwhelming. Lucky for him it’s the story that isn’t very good not his role in it. He deserves an Oscar. Whatever that means.
Milos Forman has made a career out of the biopic. He’s the Oscar-winning director of Amadeus, but he’s followed the pendulum to the other side directing films like The People Vs. Larry Flint. He also has the most unfortunate habit of sticking Courtney Love in his movies of late because as Ms. Love says, “he gets me.” Thankfully, her role is brief and inconsequential. Forman has the impossible task of trying to make sense out of Andy Kaufman’s life. His scriptwriters (held over from The People Vs. Larry Flint) come up with a linear storyline that is anachronistic and flawed. The timeline is unclear and character development is nonexistent. We can’t tell the career ups from the career downs the way they are portrayed here because we are given half-assed explanations. Andy hates sitcoms. Andy signs on the dotted line anyway. Andy is upset when Taxi is cancelled. Andy takes meditation seriously. Forman expects us to sympathize with Andy’s setbacks, but, apart from Carrey’s expressive face, his character has yet to reveal any emotions.
Forman took the film’s title from the R.E.M. hit of the same name, and, consequently, hired the band to compose its first score. I honestly didn’t even notice the score, but I did notice R.E.M.’s latest single/tribute to Andy shamelessly tossed into an unrelated scene, chalking up yet another anachronism for Forman. The director seems to have taken on more than he could handle. I don’t blame him for trying. It would have been pretty amazing to pull this off, but he didn’t. I don’t want to know why Andy was crazy- not that we’re offered even a glimpse of what went on inside Andy’s mind, but I do want to see more of Andy’s craziness, and that’s where Forman scores. Everything is right with the world when we just see Jim Carrey interpreting Andy’s antics because they were and are hilarious. Everything else is just filler.