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  • Simon Garner

Actor of the Week: Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey thumbs down

Since we started our Actor of the Week feature at Life of Films, Jim Carrey’s name was immediately on my shortlist. He was a hero of mine in childhood, and I’ve continued to love him ever since. The reason I’ve recognised him this week was due to seeing the fantastic Netflix Original documentary Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, a behind-the-scenes documentary about Carrey’s portrayal of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. I’ll touch on this more later.

I first saw Carrey in 1994’s The Mask. 1994 is widely considered the year everyone became aware of him, and considering he also brought us Dumb and Dumber and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in that year, it’s easy to see why. The Mask remains one of my favourite Carrey roles to this day - I even dressed up as him for a party one year! The Mask sees Carrey play Stanley Ipkiss, a man who is essentially too nice for his own good. He’s walked over and taken for granted, until he discovers a mysterious mask that gives the wearer powers, and, as a result, is transformed into something of a crazed superhero. This role really allowed Carrey to bring many of his mad attributes to the table; faces, voices, jokes and more. It is these attributes that Carrey has become synonymous with, though there is so much more in his arsenal. Below is a favourite scene of mine from The Mask, and it’s a scene I’m sure we’re all familiar with!

Once upon a time, I’d have picked The Mask as my single favourite Carrey film, instead of the ‘one of’ status I’ve given it. These days, if I was pressed for a single choice, I think The Truman Show would edge it. Coming four years after his prolific 1994, this film gave Carrey a chance to show off more than humour and stupidity, though the former is still very much evident. The Truman Show is about a man named Truman Burbank, played by Carrey, who was adopted by a television corporation and raised in a giant dome, fashioned as the town Seahaven Island. The dome contains thousands of cameras and broadcasts Truman’s life to the whole world, all day, every day. Every individual surrounding Truman, from those close to him to passers by, is an actor, either having repetitive lines or reeling off lines fed to them by the director at that time. We are introduced to Truman as having made it well into adult life without suspecting anything regarding the faux surroundings. But it is here, right at the start, that we see the first huge chunk of suspicion and doubt creep in. Truman sees a scruffy homeless man and recognises him as his father. He is correct, as he has snuck on set, but is very quickly removed. The actors are then charged with convincing him he is wrong, as he knows his father ‘died’ in a boating accident. It is this accident that has given Truman his fear of water, thus discouraging him from heading to the water and potentially discovering the truth. Much happens along this journey, more and more of it becoming unscripted and improvised as Truman begins to investigate and stray more and more. This is a wonderful film with a truly uplifting end - you just yearn for Truman to break free and actually discover life. Carrey is fantastic in giving us all the reactionary aspects - fear, laughs, real love, compassion and much more. If, somehow, you haven’t yet enjoyed The Truman Show, I strongly implore you to do so!

Considering it’s December, there is no way I could write this without mentioning one of the great Christmas films - How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Based on Dr Seuss’ children’s picture book of the same name, we see Carrey heavily made up as The Grinch, who despises Christmas and The Whos of Whoville. Upon encountering six-year-old Cindy Lou and accidentally saving her life, he causes her to become inquisitive, ultimately trying to find out what people actually know about The Grinch. She eventually discover he, in fact, has a tragic past. Whilst he was now largely disliked because of his pranks and troublemaking, he was actually quite shy and introvert as a child, bullied by many for his appearance, which is clearly very different due to him being adopted. One of his biggest bullies was Augustus May Who, who eventually became the Mayor. Carrey is great fun in this film, with it being another perfect occasion for him to bring the comical tendencies he is so revered for. His transition from a hard, mean individual to his rediscovery of compassion and gratitude is very pleasing to watch, and it makes for classic Christmas viewing.

The Grinch posing

Some other notable roles for Carrey have been Bruce Almighty, Liar Liar, two turns as the ridiculous Ace Ventura in the previously mentioned Pet Detective, as well as Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and The Number 23. The Number 23 is the exception there, as the rest fall into his signature comedic bracket, whereas The Number 23 is a psychological thriller centred around Carrey’s character Walter Sparrow and his obsession with the 23 enigma. A far cry from a lot of his roles in many ways, but it shows that Carrey is so much more than what he has, perhaps, been overly associated with in his career.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I wanted to return to the Netflix Original documentary Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond. Whilst it largely shows all the footage collected off-camera, when Carrey was portraying Andy Kaufman, we get a real insight into the psyche of both the younger Jim, and the current Jim. There were many times I was astounded during this documentary, both because of the sheer quality and accuracy of Carrey’s impersonation of Andy Kaufman, and the raw, uninhibited look at Jim and the effects his family and career had on him at various stages. I loved this guy before watching Jim and Andy, and felt honoured to have witnessed it afterwards. Please, please, check it out.

Jim Carrey was a huge factor in me loving films from a young age, and his back catalogue contains a number of my all-time favourite films. I feel that any film he is linked with stands a great chance of success, owing to his quality and sheer presence. Thanks a lot Jim, we re-he-heally love you!

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