Milos Forman's last film, The People Vs Larry Flynt, was the kind of rapturous, unconventional biopic which gave you hope for the way movies can capture the inherent ironies of people's lives. This latest endeavour is scripted by Flynt's Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and sees rubbery comic Jim Carrey paying a vocally and physically perfect homage to Andy Kaufman. As such, it's as introspection-free as the enigmatic performer apparently was in real life.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's certainly not an unfunny thing, as Carrey's recreations of Kaufman's now-classic stage acts - - including Foreign Man (who became Latka Gravas on Taxi), Elvis impersonator, lady-wrestler, and, perhaps most exhilaratingly, abusive lounge singer Tony Clifton - - are as enjoyable as the originals. This peculiar bio has a performance film quality that gets inside Kaufman's special brand of anger-inducing theatrics. Kaufman approached each of his performances as a chance to be entertained by his audience, preferably their response to whatever seemingly unentertaining on-stage behaviour he could unleash, including reading all of The Great Gatsby on stage in a faux British accent. All of it.
Will those unfamiliar with Kaufman get it? Since Forman directs it from a recent convert's viewpoint, maybe. Then again maybe not, if have a low tolerance for Hollywood's unceasing ability to congratulate itself for discovering people. But if it's in your radar, give it a go, for its joy in the mechanics of abrasive comedy and the way Kaufman's death is seen as both tragic and perhaps the ultimate put-on. Most of all, see it because of Carrey, who plays this heralded joker as both a twinkly conundrum and a committed control freak.
Possibly head-scratching for non-Kaufmanites, and not especially illuminating from inside the head of the man himself, but this is a rigorous and funny recreation of the trajectory of an envelope-pushing showbiz misfit.