Nigh on every day I hear the same expression about comedy constantly being used - 'Some of it is of an acquired taste'. And I suppose on some-level that this is a valid expression really - especially if the humor in question is of a rather... errr... 'acquired taste'. Now a good example of this would be this film Directed by Milos Forman; and Staring: Jim Carry, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, and Paul Giamati. It was made in 1999, and lasts for 118 minutes.
Man on the Moon
I am afraid to say that Andy Kaufman (Jim Carry) is what I would call a 'mixed bag of nuts'. His parents don't understand his silliness. His audience can not comprehend his stand-up comedy shtick. And even the manager in charge of the nightclub that Andy performs in, thinks that he should change his act!
However, one fateful night, Andy somehow dazzles talent agent, George Shapiro (Danny De Vito), by demonstrating to him a rather low-brow and height-voiced foreign gentlemen from Caspia, plus, a rather rhythmical imitation of the King, Elvis Presley, too.
In fact, George is so taken by Andy's 'alternative' talent, that within no time at all, he gets Andy a spot on the television show, 'Saturday Night Live', and a contract on fledgling sitcom, 'Taxi'.
But Andy being Andy, he does have one proviso that George has to comply with first, before he agrees to his offer - George has to hire a sleazy lounge-club singer called Tony Clifton, to appear on Taxi four times per season.
Now obviously George will only comply with Andy's demand, if he can get to see Tony first. So what does George do? Correct - he goes down to a nightclub where Tony is performing, just to see if he is any good or not. And - errr - I am shamed to say - err - that - err - he's not. Tony is a somewhat overt and boisterous performer. Moreover, Andy and Tony are one and the same person! Well? That is unless Andy’s co-writer, Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti) isn't him at other times.
Still, George agrees to Andy's proviso, one that Andy later regrets when he starts to make it big over the next couple of years.
You see, this begins when Andy gets a poor reception at a college campus – as his audience want him to perform his Taxi character, ‘Latka’, and Andy does not want to. Next, feeling that Taxi is a wedge between him and his career, Andy causes anarchy during one of 'Tony Cliftons' guest spot on this show – to his co-stars eventful chagrin. After that, news leaks out in the media stating that Tony and Andy are one and the same man - that is until they both appear on stage together. And finally, with some help from Bob and a pal, Andy performs a number of bodacious skits where he belittles women and wrestles them on stage - which does not come across too well in the public eye.
Though, one of the women Andy does wrestles, does takes a strange liking to him - Lynne Margulies (Courtney Love) - and they continue their relationship together when they both go to Texas.
OK, why Texas? Well, Texas is the location where Andy confronts professional male wrestler, Jerry Lawler (who plays himself), where he challenges Andy to a one on one wrestling competition – oops!
Yes - I said 'oops' - because from then on in, things seem to go from bad to worse for Andy. His 'wresting scam' is outed by George. He is voted out of appearing on Saturday Night Live. He is told that Taxi has been cancelled. Plus on top of all that, he discovers that he has cancer and is going to die.
Poor b*stard! Now do you think that Andy can redeem himself for his past antics? Will he be able to get himself cured from cancer? Also, is his illness a scam or not? No - I'm not saying - but what I will say is that sickness starts to crawl - love is felt in Carnegie Hall - Andy takes a major fall - and Tony Clifton gives everyone a ball.
Maybe the end.
OK, so 'Man on the Moon' is a bio-pic, right? So what comes when you watch these types of films? Correct. Facts. Mine: (1) Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman were both born on the same date - January 17th. (2) The director of this film, Milos Forman, was not sure if either Jim Carrey or Edward Norton should play Andy - and only went with Jim because he was a comedian. (3) The title of this film refers to the lyric used in the R.E.M. song that accompanied this film - not the other way round. (4) The role of Andy Kaufman's sister was actually played by his granddaughter, Brittany Colonna. (5) Some of the sets used in this film were the actual real places in which said event occurred - for example, the Saturday Night Live scenes, and the David Letterman scene. (6) John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, Gary Oldman, and Hank Azaria, all wanted to play Andy Kaufman in this film. (7) Jim refused to answer to his real name on the set - it was Andy Kaufman at all times. (8) This was Fredd Wayne's and Doris Eaton's final film - and Doris first for sixty-six years. (9) Most of the core cast of Taxi was used in this film to play themselves - except for Danny DeVito, who played the agent, and Tony Danza, who wanted nothing to do with it. And (10) There were a lot of other real life cameos in this film as well, such has Andy's wife, Lynne Marguiles, his co-writer, Bob Zmuda, and his agent, George Shapiro.
Well, now that I have all of that off of my system, what do I think about this film? Or, more importantly, how would Andy have felt about it? Hmmm. Tough titties, Andy's dead, and I'm not - and I have to say that I thought that this was a bloody marvelous movie. Honestly, it is one of those flicks that made me want to go straight on YouTube to see what Andy was really like - just to see if Jim pulled off his 'De Niro' in an appropriate fashion.
And - from my perspective - I like to think that he did. I just found that Jim Carrey really played all aspects of Andy’s personality to a tea, making him appear almost like an idiot savant at times, not really knowing what he’s going to do or say next. Moreover, Jim' supporting cast do a bang up job as well - with Danny, Courtney, Paul, and the rest, just 'kicking it' big time like a runner with tourettes and a stammer.
Oh! Sorry about that last remark - because it was in bad taste - just like Andy's real life antics I suppose. Still, that is what 'Man on the Moon' is all about, right? How a mans actions are not always understood. Personally speaking, I found that this was the most fascinating aspect explored in this movie - and does it without really trying to justify why Andy did what he did, but rather, just project it onto the screen and allow the audience to feel what they feel.
Also, this non-judgmental stance is a very pleasant take on ‘Bio-pics’ as well - not seeming overly sentimental or lavish in any way. Plus, in addition to this, I did enjoy the enigmatic ending - as it throws the question that I am sure many Andy Kaufman fans have probably been asking themselves for quite some time now – is he alive?
However, to juxtapose my adulation for this movie just a tad, this film did have one slight drawback - the fledgling romance between Andy and Lynne - because it did come across too quickly to really have any form of depth. Nevertheless, apart from that, this movie is a must see for all fans of comedy, bio-pics, and all-star cast ensembles. Wouldn't you agree Andy?
Andy would be proud - and if not - tough - I liked it.