Sunday, December 18, 2005

No Headline Strange Enough For My Review Of 'Man On The Moon'

A Movie Review

Eccentric director Milos Forman has made an eccentric film about an eccentric man in his 1999 Andy Kaufman bio-pic Man on the Moon. The film starts out with Jim Carry as Andy Kaufman, telling the audience that in essence he did not like the film so he edited it down to the credits, after which the end credits begin to roll. After a few minutes of this Carry's Kaufman, now sporting a different 'personality', lets us in on the joke and begins the film in ernest. I point this out because this introduction basically captures the manic genius that was Andy Kaufman, a man who was as much running experiments about reaction on his audience as he was trying to entertain them.

In fact Andy Kaufman didn't so much consider himself a comedian, as he did a self styled 'song and dance man'. Only tolerating his much loved role on the TV series Taxi so that he could persue his other intrests, Kaufman made a name for himself with eccentric (here's that word again) performance pieces, female wrestling, strange characters, and elaborate production numbers. Always one to blur the line between reality and fantasy Andy Kaufman has long been associated with the character of a mean spirited lounge singer named Tony Clifton, a character who may or may not be a real person as the film points out.

Jim Carry's performance as Andy is strong in a role that seems just perfect for him. Reports from the set at the time of production indicate that Mr. Carry really went full in to the 'method acting' technique in the film, staying in character as Andy for most of the shoot. Paul Giamatti works well as Kaufmans creative partner Bob Zmuda, Coutrny Love surprised me as Andy's sympathetic girlfriend Lynne Margulies, while Danny Devito largely anchored the film in reality as comedy agent George Shapiro. Also of note is the surprising number of folks from Andy's past who appear as themselves in the film, including Budd Friedman, Jerry Lawler, Lorin Michaels, and David Letterman. Most of the cast of Taxi appear in the film looking almost eerily like their selves of 20 years previous under excellent make-up (shout out to Judd Hirsch).

Man on the Moon is interesting for what it is, a bio-pic of a man who is more the sum of his creations then his own person. The majority of the film is Kaufman in his various characters, which gives Jim Carry ample opportunity to perform the late entertainers greatest bits (which he does very well), but little time to get a sense the guy as a person. However as Andys girlfriend Lynne points out to him in the film, "there is no real you." Like fellow eccentric Peter Sellers, Andy Kaufmans lack of a real defined sense of self outside of his work lead to great pain for those around him. Unlike Sellers however Kaufman seemed less bitter at the end, at least as judging from both characters portals in their respective bio-films. Andy Kaufman died of cancer in 1984, since it would seem within his character to try and fake a stunt like that his passing was meet with an unusual degree of suspicion. Yet despite all that he did in life the stigma of his worst stunts seems to have largely worn off, leaving us with a memory of a Andy Kaufman as a "very original" man with a truly original body of work.


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