Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’ Is a Fascinating Glimpse Into Two Comedic Geniuses

18 years after the release of the Milos Forman-helmed biopic “Man on the Moon,” viewers will have the opportunity to see previously unseen footage of actor Jim Carrey stepping into arguably his greatest role, that of Andy Kaufman, the gifted and eccentric comedian whose life was cut tragically short. However, “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond“- the story of Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman is more than a mere behind-the-scenes feature; it is a glimpse into the mind of a creative genius and the lengths he goes to do justice to another genius. With footage captured by Kaufman’s girlfriend, documentarian Lynne Marguiles, and his best friend and creative partner Bob Zmuda, “Jim & Andy” illustrates how Carrey and Kaufman are one in the same, despite having never met in this lifetime.

Like Carrey after him, Kaufman was known for immersing himself into his characters to the point where the public knew little about his true self, so it is quite fitting that Carrey should transform himself into Kaufman, as well as his abrasive alter ego Tony Clifton, for the full duration of the “Man on the Moon” shoot, and not just when the cameras are rolling. Carrey’s commitment at times exasperate those around him, especially Forman, although even the great director of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” knows better than to reign in the madness to his lead actor’s method. Carrey’s process allows him to tap into Kaufman’s own vulnerability. In one memorable scene, he brings a makeup artist to tears as he improvises an emotional fight with the actor playing his father, Gerry Becker, in the makeup trailer. Also moving are his playful interactions with co-star Courtney Love, who plays Marguiles and wins praise from her real-life counterpart. But what was perhaps the emotional moment for Carrey/Kaufman occurred offscreen. As Carrey recounts to director Chris Smith in a present day interview, the daughter whom Kaufman and an ex gave up for adoption as teens visited the set to meet her “dad,” and the pair were able to spend some time alone.

But with Andy comes Tony. While Kaufman was for the most part sweet and endearing, his alter ego Clifton was obnoxious and overbearing. We see just how far Carrey goes in one scene when Carrey/Clifton breaks away from his set on the Universal lot and goes to the offices of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, demanding to see Mr. Spielberg, leaving his unsuspecting employees bewildered. Zmuda, who often stood in for Andy as Clifton back in the day, even gets in on the action, teaming up with Carrey to fool one Mr. Hugh Hefner.

There’s also another story in “Jim & Andy,” and that’s of Carrey’s personal journey. In present day, Carrey not only speaks of his time as Kaufman so vividly that one would think that the shoot was last month instead of nearly two decades ago, he also talks of his own hardships and triumphs. Especially inspiring is recounting how he manifested much of his own success, learning early on that he had to “let go” in order to let audiences in. It’s no secret that Carrey has experienced trouble in his personal life these past few years following the untimely death of a former girlfriend, something that isn’t addressed here, but the pain in his eyes is there, nonetheless. While Kaufman, who passed away of a rare form of cancer at age 35, never got to chance look back at his life with the wisdom that comes with age, fortunately for Carrey and his fan, he has that luxury.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond” premieres Nov. 17 on Netflix and in select theaters.