Man on the Moon - Milos Forman, biografska komedija drama
Man on the Moon is a 1999 American biographical comedy-drama film about the late American entertainer Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey. The film was directed by Miloš Forman and also features Danny DeVito, Courtney Love and Paul Giamatti. DeVito worked with Kaufman on the Taxi television series, and other members of that show`s cast, including Marilu Henner, Judd Hirsch, Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Conaway, make cameo appearances in the film, playing themselves. The film also features Patton Oswalt in a very minor cameo role.
The story traces Kaufman`s steps from childhood through the comedy clubs, and television appearances that made him famous, including his memorable appearances on Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, Fridays, and his role as Latka Gravas on the Taxi sitcom, which was popular for viewers but disruptive for Kaufman`s co-stars. The film pays particular attention to the various inside jokes, scams, put-ons, and happenings for which Kaufman was famous, most significantly his long-running feud with wrestler Jerry `The King` Lawler and his portrayal of the bawdy lounge singer Tony Clifton.
Although the film received mixed reviews, Carrey received critical acclaim for his chameleonic performance and won a Golden Globe, his second win in a row after receiving an award for The Truman Show. He was nominated in the Musical/Comedy category for Man on the Moon, and remarked in his acceptance speech that he thought the film was a drama at heart.
Directed by Miloš Forman
Produced by Danny DeVito
Written by Scott Alexander
Starring Jim Carrey
Music by R.E.M.
Cinematography Anastas N. Michos
Edited by Adam Boome
Mutual Film Company
Tele München Fernseh Produktionsgesellschaft
Distributed by Universal Pictures
December 22, 1999
Running time 119 minutes
Country United States
Andy Kaufman`s (Jim Carrey) `foreign man` character appears in black-and-white, declaring that (due to massive editing), this is actually the end of the film, not the beginning. He plays a phonograph record alongside the credits before walking off. Kaufman then comes back, and, in his normal voice, claiming he `had to get rid of the people who don`t understand me, and don`t want to try`, he proceeds to show the story of his life on a film projector, starting with his childhood home in Great Neck, New York, circa 1957.
Kaufman is a struggling performer whose act fails in nightclubs because, while the audience wants comedy, he sings children`s songs and refuses to tell conventional jokes. As the audience begins to believe that Kaufman may have no real talent, his peculiar `foreign man` puts on a rhinestone jacket and does a dead-on Elvis impersonation and song. The audience bursts into applause, realizing Kaufman had tricked them.
He catches the eye of talent agent George Shapiro (Danny DeVito), who signs Kaufman as a client and immediately lands him a network TV series, Taxi, much to Kaufman`s dismay, since he dislikes sitcoms. Because of the money, visibility, and promise that he can do his own television special, Kaufman accepts the role on Taxi, turning his foreign man into a mechanic named Latka Gravas. He secretly hates doing the show, however, and expresses a desire to quit.
Invited to catch a different act at a nightclub, Shapiro witnesses a performance from a rude, loud-mouthed lounge singer, Tony Clifton, whom Andy wants to guest-star on Taxi. Clifton`s bad attitude is matched by his horrible appearance and demeanor. But backstage, when he meets Shapiro in person, Clifton takes off his sunglasses and reveals that he is actually Kaufman. Clifton is a “villain character” created by Kaufman and his creative partner, Bob Zmuda (Paul Giamatti). Once again, the gag is on the audience.
Kaufman`s fame increases with his Saturday Night Live appearances, but he has problems with his newfound fame. When he travels to college campuses, audiences dislike his strange sense of humor and demand that he perform as Latka, so he deliberately antagonizes them by reading The Great Gatsby aloud from start to finish. Kaufman shows up on the Taxi set as Clifton and proceeds to cause chaos until he is removed from the studio lot. He relates to Shapiro that he never knows exactly how to entertain an audience “short of faking my own death or setting the theater on fire”.
Kaufman decides to become a professional wrestler—but to emphasize the “villain” angle, he would wrestle only women (hired actresses) and then berate them after winning, declaring himself `Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion`. He becomes smitten with one woman he wrestles, Lynne Margulies (Courtney Love), and they begin a romantic relationship.
Problems arise when an appearance on a live TV comedy show, ABC`s Fridays, turns into a fiasco when Kaufman refuses to speak his lines. Also, the wrestling Kaufman enjoys getting a rise out of the crowds and feuds publicly with Jerry Lawler, a professional male wrestler, who challenges Kaufman to a `real` wrestling match, which Kaufman accepts. Lawler easily overpowers and seriously injures Kaufman, resulting in the comedian wearing a neck brace. Lawler and an injured Kaufman appear on NBC`s Late Night with David Letterman, theoretically to call a truce, but Lawler insults Kaufman, who throws a drink at the wrestler and spews a vicious tirade of epithets. It is later revealed, however, that Kaufman and Lawler were in fact good friends, and staged the entire feud, but despite this, Andy pays a price when he is banned from Saturday Night Live by a vote of audience members, weary of his wrestling antics. Shapiro advises Kaufman and Lawler not to work together again, and later calls Kaufman to inform him that Taxi has been canceled.
After a show at a comedy club, Kaufman calls together Lynne, Zmuda and Shapiro to disclose that he has been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer and may die soon. They aren`t sure whether to believe this, thinking it could be yet another Kaufman stunt, with Zmuda actually believing a fake death would be a fantastic prank. With a short time to live, Kaufman gets a booking at Carnegie Hall, his dream venue. The performance is a memorable success, culminating with Kaufman inviting the entire audience out for milk and cookies. His health deteriorates. Desperate, he heads to the Philippines to seek a medical “miracle” (actually psychic surgery), where doctors supposedly pull out infected organs from the body; he discovers the scam and laughs at the irony. He dies soon after. Friends and loved ones do a sing-along with a video of Andy at his funeral.
One year later, in 1985, Tony Clifton appears at Andy Kaufman`s tribute at The Comedy Store`s main stage performing, `I Will Survive`. The camera pans over the crowd and reveals Zmuda in the audience. During the final credits, Kaufman briefly peeks in black-and-white again.