Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

*** contains spoilers ***
This is probably one of those films that needs to be watched twice.

Biopics of dead comedians can be quite nasty these days, so I'm afraid that I came into this one hoping that the film's initial attitude of ridiculing such a misfit wouldn't last too long before the inevitably forgiving final act. (containing his sad death)

So viewing it with that expectation, at first Jim Carrey's portrayal of Andy Kaufman looked absolutely cruel. Andy is a simpleton with no sense of humour or connection to the real world. He bumbles his way through a career in comedy by just accidentally being funny, and my teeth were gritted for ages waiting for him to finally, devastatingly, bomb.

But along the way Andy seems to be learning. Some of his supposed improvisations have clearly required a little preparation, and his grip on how an audience will react becomes more and more honed. Practical jokes become the order of the day, although Andy really doesn't care whether anyone other than himself finds it funny.

One scene sat very awkwardly with me, when he's playing a wrestling sketch that gets exposed as a set-up. He winds-up being heckled by a seriously offended professional wrestler. Maintaining the façade of the sketch that he's started, Andy winds up getting seriously injured.

The reason this sat badly with me was because, and I hate to put it into words, but wrestling is acting. Didn't these film-makers know that?

Yes. Yes, they did...

This film pulls the rug out from under you again and again. Andy pulls-off so many elaborate practical jokes on his audiences that I spent much of the running-time waiting for the inevitable genuine accident to happen, that no-one believes-in. And there are a few of them.

When he eventually does die, of course, the filmmakers are smart enough to leave the obvious question-mark hanging.

Looking him up on Wikipedia afterwards, the film seems to have done Andy's memory a fairly good service, allowing for a few bits of dramatic licence. Looking back over the movie's portrayal of him, I can see his lifelong commitment to childhood fun. I have to firmly agree with that. As I've said so many times before, growing-up shouldn't lessen the number of things that you can enjoy, but add to them, and I think this version of Andy got that. In one scene he takes his entire theatre-audience out for milk and cookies.

In other scenes, I did catch myself muttering the word "Genius."

If I watched this film again, I suspect that I wouldn't take those early awkward scenes at face value.

He may have been dead for 25 years, but I think Andy Kaufman might still have just managed to put one over on me.

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