There are actors, then there are over-actors. One would be hard-pressed to think of an actor who overacts more than Jim Carrey. Sure, the slapstick comedians of the silent era might come close, but Carrey’s extremely physical comedy is what sets him apart from everyone else. Perhaps Lisa Simpson (in a fictitious 2010) said it best, “He can make you laugh with no more than a frantic flailing of his limbs.” That’s not to say Jim Carrey hasn’t done serious films, it’s more that he is best known for his exaggerated gesticulation. And while his latest works haven’t been able to recapture the prime of his career in the mid-1990s, the fact remains that these ’90s comedies are easily remembered due to his overacting. That being said, this week’s two films highlight some very poignant and heartfelt performances from Jim Carrey.
The Truman Show
Length: 103 minutes / 1.72 hours
While his earliest work was in television, Jim Carrey didn’t appear in many films before 1994. Of note is a minor part in the final film of the Dirty Harry series, The Dead Pool (1988), which was by no means a comedy. But, in 1994, Carrey took the world by storm with three films cementing his status as a goofy comedian: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber. The following year, he would continue with a sequel Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, as well as a marginally more serious role as The Riddler in Batman Forever. Subsequent years saw him in The Cable Guy (1996) and Liar Liar (1997) before he settled down a little to make The Truman Show (1998). While the role as Truman Burbank was a bit more subdued than his comedic roles, it revealed that Jim Carrey did have a slightly more substance than shouting and flailing.
Forced to live in a world where he feels like he never quite fits in, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) keeps putting on the mask of a perfect husband, friend, and neighbor. This façade has lasted for 30 years as he attempts to blend in with the “perfect” actors who surround him. Almost in response to his nagging doubts about the reality he has been subjected to, Truman unexpectedly gets a few peeks behind the curtain of the fabricated town of Seahaven. Truman finds his wanderlust to discover a place where he belongs has many barriers, not the least of which is a fear of drowning. The irony is that Seahaven and the surrounding island were explicitly made for him by Christof (Ed Harris) and that Truman is the center of a long-running reality TV show. Still, Truman’s persistence pays off as he finally finds the end of his world and his freedom from it.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours
The aforementioned Truman Show was a bit of a turning point for Jim Carrey’s career. He still would go on to do comedies, such as Me, Myself & Irene (2000) and Bruce Almighty (2003), but the more serious roles had been breached to moderate success. Putting some of the silliness aside, Carrey would try to capitalize on this with Man on the Moon (1999) and The Majestic (2001). Unfortunately, by 2007, he had gone too far with the psychological thriller, The Number 23. The sweet spot of this non-comedic progression was most definitely seen in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). It is unfortunate that the poorly-received The Number 23 killed off some of Jim Carrey’s ambition to star in dramatic roles, as the comedies he has made lately make us wonder if he still has the chops to pull off another Eternal Sunshine.
In a rare treat, Jim Carrey is cast as Joel Barish, an introverted and stiff man who finds himself starting a relationship with the wild and unpredictable Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet). Even though their personalities are diametrically opposed, they can’t help being attracted to each other. The reason for this is soon revealed on a train ride from Montauk, New York, where they find out that they had actually been in a committed relationship for two years before it ended badly. To forget the emotional trauma, Clementine had her memories erased, which led to Joel undergoing the same procedure. However, as the bad times are removed, the good ones remain, and Joel attempts to hide them in the deepest recesses of his mind, not willing to let go of her, even if it is in his dreams. Unfortunately, every last memory is erased, but not before a memory of Clementine tells him to meet her in Montauk.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 clever Carrey castings
Bacon #: 2 (Bruce Almighty / Jennifer Aniston -> Picture Perfect / Kevin Bacon)