Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

Callum Costello talks us through this Netflix original documentary

Callum Costello
4th December 2017
Jim Carrey - (instagram)

Comedy and tragedy exist at a crossroads, and in Jim & Andy we see what happens when they smash together violently. Irrationality is part of Jim Carrey’s comedic genius, but a part of the persona that James Eugene Carrey seems most conflicted with. Each time Jim’s career has taken a right turn James has steered back again; Liar Liar followed The Cable Guy, Lemony Snicket followed Eternal Sunshine.

A much publicised battle with depression has led to a re-evaluation of the subtext of his performances; there’s split personality disorder in Me, Myself and Irene, psychotic obsession in The Number 23, uncontrollable self destruction in I Love You Philip Morris. An analysis of Jim Carrey’s star persona is fascinating; he is at once a voice of the voiceless yet also one of the biggest film stars in the world. No investigation of Jim Carrey’s body of work is complete without a deep look at Man on the Moon, Carrey’s finest performance and pet project biopic of comedic idol and performance genius Andy Kaufman, which is exactly what documentary Jim & Andy is.

There’s plenty of uncomfortable moments in ‘im & Andy, but none more so than when Carrey returns to set at the height of his psychosis with an entourage of Hell’s Angel’s bikers. A crew member shouts that a dozen people will sue the production for mental distress - front of that queue is Carrey himself. Jim’s desire to do justice to Kaufman is so extreme that he gets completely lost in the role (and may still be).

But it’s also evident that he’s a tortured person, and his desire to do justice to his hero lands him in a stressful place between Jim and Andy

Man on the Moon wasn’t a popular film and there’s not much about Jim Carrey’s method approach to the work, so for Netflix to release a documentary eighteen years later solely on Carrey’s approach to a role in a film that flopped critically and commercially seems an odd decision - but if you know Andy Kaufman’s work then you can understand why we got Jim & Andy. Or to give it the full title; Jim & Andy: the Great Beyond - Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton. Much like the work of Kaufman and the work of Carrey as Kaufman, Jim & Andy is a performance art piece.

A voyeuristic document on the mechanics of method acting. Watching archive footage of Danny DeVito and Milos Forman crumbling at the hands of Carrey’s psychotic performance is almost as uncomfortable as watching Carrey explain how divine intervention was the catalyst in his decision to go method. You don’t become an actor without a theatricality complex, which Carrey obviously has, but it’s also evident that he’s a tortured person, and his desire to do justice to his hero lands him in a stressful place between Jim and Andy. Alongside the joys of seeing Carrey do Kaufman, the dormant angers of both performers are exposed.

It’s a fascinating insight, and the film, much like the subject matter, is an exercise in shapelessness. So in that respect whilst I went into this film expecting a surreal documentary instead what we got was a deep look at James Eugene Carrey, and his relationship to the persona of Jim. What makes it work is that Jim, much like Andy, for all his darkness is a fundamentally likeable guy. This is a raw, fascinating, unnecessary and unmissable documentary.

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