Andy Kaufman - star of Saturday Night Live, Taxi, and his own stage shows in the late 70s and early 80s - just what was the guy thinking? If you are looking for an insight into Kaufman, then Man On the Moon is not the place to be.The film opens with a young Kaufman performing to his own bedroom wall - much to his father's chagrin. He is obviously a natural performer - just not necessarily a crowd pleaser.
Things then shift a few years where we see the beginning of Kaufman's career and what made he so special and frustrating in pretty much equal proportions. The film then goes to detail some of his most brilliant and scandalous acts (including the misogyny- themed inter-gender wrestling) and his eventual demise.
Not much of an insight is given into the person behind this chronic prankster who had a serious case of the Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf. The film is a sympathetic portrayal of Kaufman where his pranks are shown as just that - pranks. That was by no means clear when he actually did them.
His stunts got to the stage when some people including his own family suspiciously regarded even his death as fake. He was an extremely frustrating man and it was no surprise that he was voted out of SNL by its audience.
Apart from saying, it's funny, the film tell us little on why Kaufman did what did. He was such a fascinating person, to gain an insight into what was going on in his head would have made an even more interesting film.
If the confusion of Kaufman's antics is not enough, the film has its own reality blurs. There are scenes on the set of Taxi and some of the actors that were really in Taxi are in the film appearing as themselves. De Vito was in Taxi, but in the film he is playing Kaufman's manager, George Shapiro, so he can't be 'Himself' in the film as well - sharp eyes can watch out for what was done about that. Just to puzzle you further the real George Shapiro is in the film as well - as a club owner. Also, in the credits Tony Clifton - a character of Kaufman's is credited in the film as Himself.
Carrey (who shares the same birth date as Kaufman) is excellent as Kaufman. He was the ideal choice and it seems odd that director Milos Forman couldn't decide between Carrey and Edward Norton. Carrey delved deep into the character of Kaufman and has produced a superbly balanced performance. He was quite unlucky to not get an Oscar nomination at least.
The film is essentially a drama that happens to be about a person who was funny. There are funny moments in this film, but that was down to Kaufman and Carrey rather than the script writers, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.
De Vito and Love go over familiar territory in their performances. De Vito again plays the side kick to a great man as he did in the biopic Hoffa, and Love again plays the girlfriend of a doomed artist - something that she's got way too much experience in if you ask me.As he did in The People vs. Larry Flint, Forman has sympathetically portrayed a real life controversial figure. Man On the Moon is an admirable film with excellent performances, but we learn little on what made up Kaufman.