the fresh films reviews

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Man on the Moon (1999)

Miloš Forman



Man on the Moon

118 minutes

Danny De Vito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Scott Alexander
Larry Karaszewski

Cast includes:

Andy Kaufman Jim Carrey ˝
George Shapiro Danny De Vito
Lynne Margulies Courtney Love
Bob Zmuda Paul Giamatti
Stanley Kaufman Gerry Becker -
Janice Kaufman Leslie Lyles -
Mr. Besserman George Shapiro -
Maynard Smith Vincent Schiavelli -
Ed. Weinberger Peter Bonerz -
Blue Collar Guy Patton Oswalt -
Himself Jerry Lawler -
Himself Richard Belzer -



Miloš Forman (Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt) consolidated his position as one of Hollywood's great movie biographers with this film about comedian/performance artist Andy Kaufman and his short but eventful life. In many ways, Forman continued where he left off with Larry Flynt, namely by shedding light on another public figure who was to a large degree despised by the public, but who also was frequently misunderstood and perceived as more or less an enigma. Forman's wonderful recreation of a not so distant past and the many details and mannerisms in it gives the picture a fine backdrop, but from there on Man on the Moon is all Jim Carrey's extravaganza. At this point in his career, Carrey had risen to a stardom which the world had possibly not seen for a comedian since the days of Charlie Chaplin, and his position was such that the cast and crew did not oppose his audacious method of "becoming" Andy Kaufman (and his various characters) for the duration of the shoot – whether the camera was rolling or not. As documented in the 2017 documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, this led to a number of abrasive situations and put a strain on the production. But it arguably also helped bring Kaufman back to life in a way that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. Carrey's often mimicry-based acting is perfect here, because Kaufman himself to such a degree put on an act while in public. The so-called real Andy Kaufman remains a mystery, and will probably always do. As his girlfriend Lynne Margulies (played by Courtney Love) remarks at one point: "There is no real you".

Aesthetically, the film is much less mysterious than Kaufman himself. Forman uses his experience and cunning to weave a traditional biographical structure of rise, conflict and downfall. It's effective and sometimes poignant. And of course, it's also often hilarious – given that you appreciate the talent and antics of Mr. Kaufman himself. The film does perhaps not reach the depths you could have hoped for, but it recreates Andy Kaufman and his life in a way that does him justice, and with plenty of absurd and bittersweet humour.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 09.09.2021 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright © 29.03.2000 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang