Movie Review By Heather Clisby
"Man on the Moon" is a biopic about one of the world's greatest pranksters, the late (or so he'd have us believe) Andy Kaufman. Directed by the master of misunderstood perspectives, Milos Foreman, and starring Jim Carrey (for who else could pull off this role?) the film attempts to know the man that nobody really knew: The King of the Inside Jokes.
If you didn't always understand the eccentric performer that was Andy Kaufman, you are not alone. His entire existence was based on the idea that being fooled was not only hilarious in the end but was maybe even a step toward enlightenment. His high-profile antics, many of which were designed to create uproars, were most often taken for his true behavior.
This time, we are let in on the joke through the eyes of Andy and his circle. The appearance of Kaufman's former fellow Taxi cast member, Danny DeVito as his manager, George Shapiro, and as producer of the film gives the entire picture a true blessing. His character represents Andy in the show business world but he also represents us, the former Andy audience, who can now appreciate what shenanigans he was up to and why.
From a small boy playing to wallpaper in Great Neck, New York, to a bongo-playing pillar of joy at Carnegie Hall just before his death, the film spans this strange life of his. "I am NOT a comedian!" he would insist, "I don't even know what's funny." Though some have called him a Dadaist performer, Kaufman was without category; this film wants you to (finally, at last!) know where he was coming from.
Carrey, whose own formidable personality actually requires less from us, is nevertheless cut from the same bizarre cloth. He successfully slipped into Andy's skin with some ease and it's a snug fit but, let's face it, Andy was freaky looking guy and Carrey, is, well, a honey, so there's that visual thing to cross. Still, the darkness required in comics of legend is present so the transformation is complete.
Courtney Love was excellent as Lynne Margulies, Andy's girlfriend. She was everything she really isn't - sweet, humble, sincere, adorable and supportive. Now that is some fine acting.
I was very pleased to see Paul Giamatti in a major role as Bob Zmuda, Andy's partner in writing and performing. I have seen this actor save more than one over-produced Hollywood schlock film from being a complete bore; it's about time that people knew his name.
"Man on the Moon" is aptly titled; Andy Kaufman was way out there, smiling and looking back all the while and tonight, the moon is brighter than ever - a scientific phenomenon even. Coincidence? You can never be sure with Andy . . . .
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 12/22/99
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