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MAN ON THE MOON

SYNOPSIS:
The late comedian Andy Kaufman (Jim Carrey) was a young nobody when he was sort of discovered by George Shapiro (Danny DeVito), a manager who saw something unique in him and set him on the road to fame with a starring role in the 1978 television sit-com, Taxi. But Kaufman, who considered himself a song and dance man, hated Taxi, despite the massive success it gave him. Andy wanted to pursue the outlandish pranks and situations which he dreamed up with his friend, writer Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti). These include appearances by the mysterious but lousy Las Vegas lounge singer, Tony Clifton, and the new sport of cross-gender wrestling, where Andy meets and wrestles his love, Lynne Margulies (Courtney Love). Andy has pulled so many tricks that nobody knows when to believe him. And when Andy announces a major health crisis, it could be another confronting gag.

"Rather than regard this as a biopic of Andy Kaufman, let's see it as an essay on a severely eccentric, probably tortured and ultimately incomprehensible man. No film of two hours can do justice to a life, even a short one. And if a film becomes art it is because it captures some essence of light, of insight, of a truth we recognise. Art is concerned with the human condition and exploring it through such a singular body as that of Kaufman's is never going to be easy - but it's well worth the try. And Milos Forman is up to it. The film is dense with the Kaufman legacy as performed, but it also dares to peep into his psyche through careful and subtle moments that have been sucked out of his friends and family since his death. It is a film that redefines edgy as an adjective in what passes for a comedy, yet quite clearly is much more than that. What is gripping in this film is the clarity of description and the extraordinary pace with which Forman delivers his essay: as well as the range of performances he elicits from Jim Carrey and Danny de Vito in particluar, but not only. As a 'people junkie' I find the film riveting (despite a glitch-ridden, elongated screening at Sydney's Planet Hollywood, which is getting itself a bad name around town as a preview theatrette). I never knew Andy Kaufman; I never even saw him work. Now I do know him a bit, and the learning process has been terrific."
Andrew L. Urban

"Man on the Moon is an extraordinary experience. Was Andy Kaufman a comic genius? Or was he lurking on the dark side of sanity? Whatever the case, there was nothing ordinary about this outrageous, impetuous, child-like man who lived in an imaginary world of his own, oblivious to social etiquette and what people thought of him. Performing solely to entertain himself, Kaufman's yearning to shock drove him into a world without balance or gravitas – a bit like the moon, perhaps… Even his closest friends and family were unsure if he was for real or whether he was kidding. And often, his ideas and behaviour were inappropriate and in bad taste. Yet we are curiously drawn to this Peter Pan outcast, whose vulnerability appeals to the child in us. But as well as describing Kaufman, we could also be talking about Jim Carrey. Crass Carrey, cute Carrey, corny Carrey. In Man on the Moon, Carrey is a chameleon as he powers into this role: he IS Andy Kaufman. Throughout the film, the boundaries between Kaufman and Carrey blur. Carrey is splendid, capturing the madness, the pathos, the craziness, the highs and lows. We warm to him. We are repulsed by him. We care for him. We are disturbed by him. Milos Forman's passion for indescribable, provocative characters is the compelling engine that drives this fascinating insight. In their screenplay, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski haven't powdered or pampered this unique true tale into a Hollywood soap. Kaufman remains an enigma and we jump into his world head-first on a giddy trip. The fact that so many people in Kaufman's life were involved in the project, results in a truly heartfelt experience. Wonderful performances from Danny DeVito and Courtney Love, while Bob Zmuda shows great offbeat flair. Don't expect Man on the Moon to be a laugh a minute. The humour, like it's subject is wild; the taste that's left in your mouth is extraordinary."
Louise Keller

"To a lot of people, Andy Kaufman was never that funny. His headstrong and simplistic approach to his performances, and the fact that he never really regarded himself as a comedian, probably helps explain why this would be so. The fact that Kaufman got away with what he was doing for so long was more an indictment of the audience than of his talent. Those who really loved him probably laughed because they didn’t know how else to react. True, Andy got a lot of laughs as Latka in Taxi, but it was a role he despised. Eventually, he got to the point where he probably understood he was a kind of fraud. He began to play with his audiences in ways which nobody had ever done before, testing their patience with practical joke after practical joke, until everyone, even those closest to him, didn’t believe anything Andy said or did. Man on the Moon is lacking, but not because of Andy Kaufman. He is an interesting enough character, a confused soul who almost inadvertently became famous. But this movie doesn’t explain things well enough. It is a sketchy portrait of an admittedly difficult subject. And when you scratch the surface, it is almost as though the makers of this movie are trying to be too postmodern, by pulling an Andy Kaufman on the audience. For example, the role of Andy’s manager, George Shapiro, is played by Danny DeVito, who starred with Andy in Taxi. DeVito is also co-producer. The real George Shapiro is Executive Producer, and also has a cameo in the movie. Indeed there are a number of cameos, starring the real people from Andy’s life. None of these clever in-jokes makes any real contribution to explaining the character and, despite solid performances by people like DeVito and Jim Carrey as Andy, you can’t help getting the feeling that Andy Kaufman would not have approved of this movie and all the Hollywood bullshit which is attached to it."
Anthony Mason

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

MAN ON THE MOON (M)
(US)

CAST: Jim Carrey, Danny DeVito, Courtney Love and Paul Giamatti

DIRECTOR: Milos Forman

PRODUCER: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, George Shapiro, Howard West, Michael Hausman

SCRIPT: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anastas Michos

EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen, Lynzee Klingman

MUSIC: REM

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrizia Von Bradenstein

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: REP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific

VIDEO SELLTHROUGH RELEASE: July 23, 3001







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