F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 31, 2010)

31 12 2010

I don’t quite know how to end a year in movie reviewing … that’s a little awkward.

But want to know something more awkward?  “Man on the Moon,” my pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  (And to close on a good note, F.I.L.M. stands for First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie.)  Perhaps awkward isn’t the right word for it, though you’ll undoubtedly feel the strange sentiment many times while watching the movie.  It’s intelligently quirky and undeniably of the oddball variety, which makes it one of the most wonderful off-color movies I’ve ever seen.

The nomadic comedian Jim Carrey has never been so at home than here as Andy Kaufman, the comedian of the ’70s and ’80s who became an incredible enigma for audiences nationwide.  His unique style was meant to be, as he called it, an “experience” for the audience meant to drum up laughs, affection, and hate.  This roller-coaster ride of emotions wasn’t exactly something that sold, and his refusal to budge from his principles made it hard for him to get many jobs on TV.

The movie, directed by two-time Academy Award-winner Milos Forman, does more than just chronicle the bizarre career of Kaufman; it attempts to resurrect the man himself.  “Man on the Moon” gives us largely the same experience that Kaufman wanted his audiences to have.  We are meant to raise an eyebrow when he stands motionless for a minute on the first episode of “Saturday Night Live” or when he reads the entire novel “The Great Gatsby” instead of doing his routine for a rowdy college crowd.  We question his alter ego, the crude and crass Tony Clifton, a fat bar-singer parody.  And then we don’t quite know what to make of a lot of it, but his refusal to conform is often hilarious and always entertaining.

As movies like “Little Fockers” tear up the box office charts but inspire groans from the audience, this may be the perfect time to watch “Man on the Moon.”  Andy Kaufman, who dared to be different, found humor in silence – and his comedy is a wacky experience that no one has ever repeated since.