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JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND: Being And Nothingness

Using archival footage and a present-day interview, Jim & Andy fills in the backstory related to Jim's spot-on performance of Andy Kaufman in 1999's Man on the Moon, at the same time providing an explanation for some of his modern bizarre behavior.

JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND: Being And Nothingness

Over the course of the past several months, Hollywood icon Jim Carrey has been in the public eye in an especially peculiar way. Despite being well known for his zany antics and broad sense of humor, the kinds of things that Carrey has been espousing of late my have troubled more than a few fans of the Ace Ventura: Pet Detective star.

Taking to a red carpet gala at New York Fashion Week, Carrey recently told an understandably bewildered reporter that the reason for his being there was that, “There is no meaning to any of this, so I wanted to find the most meaningless thing that I could come to and join, and here I am.” Predictably, fans around the world took to the Internet to spread disposable hysteria repackaged as content by YouTube personalities and Morning Show news broadcasters alike.

Finally, with the release of the documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond on Netflix this past November, it would appear that fans finally have an answer as to what has been behind Carrey’s philosophical posturing. Compiled from hours of behind the scenes footage shot during the making of the Miloš Forman film Man on the Moon in 1998, and juxtaposed against a contemporaneous interview recorded with Carrey almost 20 years later, Jim & Andy tells the bizarre story of how Carrey came to play the part of the late Andy Kaufman.

Being Andy

Unbeknownst to many, Carrey had intended to release the archival footage featured in Jim & Andy many years prior. At one point in the film, Carrey even goes so far as to suggest that Forman might considered releasing Man on the Moon interspersed with clips of Carrey engaging with the cast and crew behind the scenes, and thusly blur the line between fact and fiction.

During the entirety of the production, Carrey notoriously remained in character as either Kaufman or Tony Clifton – an infamously lecherous lounge singer who is largely understood to be a character initially created and alternately played by Kaufman and his creative collaborator Bob Zmuda.

JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND: Being And Nothingness

source: Netflix

But Carrey’s performance in Man on the Moon went a little deeper than what many might refer to as method acting. By his own admission, Carrey believes that during the filming of Man on the Moon he channeled the spirit of Kaufman and existentially became one with his comedic forebear. Granted, a lot of Carrey’s reasoning in the present as it is explained to Jim & Andy director Chris Smith is abstract and irrational, requiring a leap of faith grounded in some kind of spiritual belief in a world beyond our own.

Yet the tenacity with which Carrey holds fast to this narrative serves as the emotional through-line for the entire film. Watching Carrey embrace Kaufman’s father behind the scenes in 1998 is beguiling, as it immediately becomes clear that both men believed that they were speaking to one another as if the deceased was actually in the room.

Likewise, many of the cast and crew on hand in the making of Man on the Moon reflect this same sense of mystic wonder. Playing opposite several members of the original cast of Taxi – most notably including Danny DeVito, Emil Hirsch, Carol Kane, Christopher Lloyd, and Marilu HennerCarrey somehow manages to bring Kaufman back to the set of the ABC sitcom that he notoriously derided taking any active part in producing.

Beyond Andy

Coming off of the career highs of such major motion picture studio comedy blockbusters as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber from 1994, Carrey finally found himself asked to interrogate an aspect of his own celebrity that had remained unexamined on the set of The Truman Show in 1997. Playing the part of a post-modern everyman who steadily becomes aware of the extent to which his life has been predetermined by a host of reality TV producers, The Truman Show greeted general audiences in early 1998 to widespread acclaim for its artful blend of satire and existentialism.

JIM & ANDY: THE GREAT BEYOND: Being And Nothingness

source: Netflix

As an answer to that exercise in self-reflection, Carrey approached Man on the Moon with an intellectually evolved mindset. Forced to confront the extent to which Hollywood celebrity had failed to make him happy, Carrey was even more open to surrendering his own image in the service of telling another person’s story.

The results were astounding when Man on the Moon saw initial theatrical release in December 1999, and with the added insight provided by Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond– or Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton, if you want to refer to the film by its full title – the extent to which Carrey expounded upon some of the themes and ideas from The Truman Show becomes even more obvious.

It’s easy to dismiss Carrey’s meandering monologue in Jim & Andy as the doddering thoughts of a man on the brink of a psychotic collapse. But in-between some of the vague statements and beguiling profundities is a man fully in control of his own sense of self. Carrey no longer measures himself against his own success, and has left the mirage of Hollywood far behind him in his voyage into the beyond alongside Andy Kaufman.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond: Conclusion

Director Chris Smith – alongside producer Spike Jonze and the digital media and broadcasting company behemoth that is VICE Media – has really created something quite special with Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. Seeing Carrey expound upon an experience tinged with a deeply personal and spiritual journey as it collided with the outside pressures of the Hollywood studio system makes for a highly original and insightful movie-watching experience.

And after watching the credits roll on Smith’s new documentary, you might even find yourself beginning to search for some bigger sense of your own self outside of the immediate reality that society so often imprints on us. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see Andy Kaufman on the way there.

Have you seen Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond? If so, what did you make of Jim Carrey’s behavior and ideology that came out of the making of Man on the Moon?    

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is streaming on Netflix.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

English Major, Film Buff, and Citizen of the World, Sean K. Cureton is a born and raised Jersey Boy. Having received a B.A. in English from Rutgers University, Sean is proud to call the Garden State his home, equidistant from both the steps that made Sylvester Stallone a household name, and the park where Harry was cordially introduced to Sally, even if he’d prefer to a stay in state due to a certain fondness for a convenience store located in Leonardo, NJ. When he’s not in the multiplex, you can follow him on Twitter, @seankcureton.

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