The new Netflix production Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton explores the behind-the-scenes footage of Jim Carrey as the late, off-beat comedian Andy Kaufman on the set of the 1999 biopic Man on the Moon. The film is an examination of the profound depths Jim Carrey descends into in a shocking commitment to method-acting.
Director Chris Smith combines footage from Carrey’s films, Kaufman’s performances, and Carrey-as-Kaufman off-scene clips to make his film. Anyone who appreciates Carrey’s body of work will enjoy this homage to his early career in the 1990s.
The film is very much devoted to revealing the creative process behind both filmmaking and Carrey’s own rise to fame (we get home-video footage of Carrey as a child with his family, as well as audition tapes for Saturday Night Live). We are given literal depictions of Carrey sitting in his make-up chair transforming into different versions of Kaufman.
There is a point in Jim & Andy where Jim Carrey looks at the camera and reflects on his own personal growth through inhabiting the character of Andy Kaufman. It’s about midway through the film, after we’ve seen Carrey’s obsessive, meticulous, and at times seemingly unstable, reconstruction of Kaufman. Carrey professes “[when you improvise] there is nothing there but the truth.”
It is through this process of becoming Kaufman that Carrey comes into himself. We see Jim Carrey “the asshole”, as he himself puts it, that Universal did not want to show for fear of ruining his reputation. We see Carrey as a belligerent who antagonises and mocks, completely separate from his popular depiction as comedian and dramatic actor.
But a deeper truth lurks underneath the surface of this film. What gets revealed to us as viewers when we see an actor perform? Carrey’s interview, which at times seems more like a confession, suggests that there is more truth in fabrication than we might realise.