Netflix documentary gives insight into Jim Carrey’s role as Andy Kaufman in 1999’s ‘Man on the Moon’

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“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond” is an exploration of identity that goes beyond its subject matter to dig into the guises we create for ourselves and the faces we put on for the world.

In that sense, it’s more successful than the movie that it’s about. The Netflix doc — full title: “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton” — goes inside the making of “Man on the Moon,” the 1999 biopic of Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey as the bombastic comedian.

Carrey famously went Method in the movie, becoming Kaufman on the set, answering only to “Andy” and creating all sorts of havoc for the cast and crew. “Jim & Andy” features scores of behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the film, and shows director Milos Forman not knowing what to do or how to handle his leading man.

Beyond that, and where it gets really interesting, is in its examination of Jim Carrey as an actor, and as a being. Carrey used comedy to mask the sadness in his life, and he rode the wave to becoming one of the planet’s biggest stars. But who is he really? The Kaufman role came at a pivotal time in Carrey’s career, and it made an impression on him that never went away. The film shows how many of Carrey’s roles lined up with specific moments in his life, further blurring the lines between art and reality.

Further, “Jim & Andy” asks where the truth lies inside all of us. Kaufman was a button-pusher, he sought to get a rise out of people and questioned where performance ended and real life began. “Jim & Andy” carries on that spirit. Kaufman would be proud.

agraham@detroitnews.com

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@grahamorama

‘Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’

GRADE: A-

Not rated: language and nudity

Running time: 94 minutes

Netflix

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