Reviewed by: Andrew Hager
Starring: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, Paul Giamatti, Tony Clifton | Director: Milos Forman | Producers: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher | Writers: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski | Distributor: Universal Pictures
Andy Kaufman was a very strange man. He wasn’t a comedian as much as he was an instigator. His antics were designed to get a response—not necessarily laughter. In his time he polarized audiences with such acts as Intergender Wrestling and Tony Clifton, an obnoxious lounge singer he created. Now, his life is portrayed in a very funny movie from director Milos Forman.
As in previous Forman biographies, like “The People Vs. Larry Flynt” and “Amadeus”, the subject is a man whose personal qualities are debatable. Kaufman was brilliant to those who knew he was kidding; annoying to those who took him seriously. He believed in “theater of life” activities, and sought to generate passion about him, whether positive or negative. In the film, Andy, played by Jim Carrey in one of the year’s best performances, is shown plotting many of his antics, and we learn that almost everything he did was done to cause controversy. The results are painfully funny and always interesting.
The film starts off with a brilliant joke and continues through Kaufman’s life at a fast pace, hitting every high or low until his death in 1984. (Some people believe Kaufman faked his death, and the film gives this some consideration.) The screenplay is fluid and funny, the direction is subtle, and the acting is brilliant.
There is some profanity, though much less than most R-rated films. (The f-word is said about 9 times.) Also, there is some brief female nudity (two women’s breast), as Andy wrestles with some prostitutes. The Tony Clifton character is purposefully offensive, and his comments are brutally funny because we are not the butt of his jokes.
Andy also dabbled in meditation and faith healing, only to find that they were frauds. While he never found God, the film does show the lies of Eastern philosophy.
All in all, I think this movie is a rewarding one, especially to fans of Kaufman. However, one will have to wade through some offensive material to get to the reward. “Man on the Moon” will most likely polarize viewers in much the same way Andy did. In that respect, Forman accomplished his goal in making a tribute to the late entertainer.