Man on the Moon Movie Review

How do you make a Serious Movie about someone who never took anything seriously at all?

This Andy Kaufman biopic has been in the works and has been talked about for so long, it's become as cultish as the man himself. Will Carrey get the Oscar nod he didn't get for The Truman Show? My prediction: yes. Will viewers of the film finally come to understand the infamous comedian? No, and he wasn't a comedian, it turns out. Andy Kaufman, in what may be the greatest revelation Man on the Moon has to offer, was a self-stylized "song and dance man."

It's hard to fathom a more difficult subject to tackle, which explains why this picture has languished in development for such a long time. Kaufman, as even passing fans are aware, used elaborate pranks to entertain the audience - and more importantly, to entertain himself.

With co-conspirator and writing partner Bob Zmuda (see our interview), Kaufman wrapped his entire life in mystery. From his well-documented obsession with wrestling women, to made-up lounge singer Tony Clifton, to his hatred for having to play dumb on the TV show Taxi, to his funeral after struggling with lung cancer, everything was a big joke to Kaufman.

Or was it? Man on the Moon gives us a teeny peek inside Andy Kaufman's skull before sealing it shut. I can't say that I know any more about Andy Kaufman than I did before I went into the theater. And while Kaufman may have been unknowable to all but his innermost circle, I find that a failing of the film.

But mind you, there's more to like. Jim Carrey, as Kaufman's doppelganger, is haunting and devastatingly accurate. The man is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, and he deserves some serious credit for his work here.

Courtney Love, on the other hand, comes as close to ruining a picture as she ever has. Playing Kaufman's girlfriend, she has far less screen time than she did in The People Vs. Larry Flynt (also directed and written by the same team that did Moon), but she just does just as much damage to the story with her abrasive, out-of-place presence.

"There is no real Andy," someone says during the film. I'm inclined to agree. Kaufman was a awesomely complex individual, and he lived his life as much in front of the camera as he did behind it. What is there left to explore? Movies, books, miniseries - I don't think we'll ever know.

I don't think we were supposed to.

Andy, did you hear about this one?


Man on the Moon Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 1999


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