“Im sick and tired of having to eek my way through life…I’m sick and tired of being a nobody.” – Lloyd Christmas – Dumb and Dumber
Rubber faced. Quick witted. Bewitchingly energetic. The benchmark for modern day comedic eccentricity. These are some labels that you might find slapped on Jim Carrey and his acting career. However, one you probably won’t see much of is ‘outstanding dramatic performer’. That’s a shame because underneath his exuberant exterior and his hilariously innovative facial expressions is a man longing to be accepted for something entirely different.
He’s one of my favourite actors of all time. I hold both Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber very close to my heart and I’m often overheard quoting both movies on a daily basis. Jim Carrey will always be that crazy pet detective with the outlandish shirts and the ridiculous quiff haircut but there’s so much more to him than funny faces and easy-to-quote punchlines. We got our first signs of Carrey’s ambition way back in 1998 when he starred as Truman Burbank, a pleasant, everyday man ignorant to the fact that his whole life had been one fat lie, playing out for millions of addicted viewers as a unknowing reality TV star. The script was tight, quirky and most importantly it was different. The Truman Show was hailed for it’s foreboding prediction in the way we watch television. Big Brother debuted a year later and reality TV took over our lives.
Helped by the competence of director Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society) and career defining performances from the supporting cast including Laura Linney and Noah Emmerich, the movie would never had been as successful had it not been for Jim Carrey knocking it out of the ballpark. With Carrey really only known for his slapstick comedy and his zany characters, it was a huge risk to have him play the lead but it paid off. The beauty of why the movie works isn’t just in the slow, delicate developing of Truman’s story and his initial suspicions eventually playing out in both humorous and tense plot twists, it’s in the subtlety of Carrey’s performance that gives the movie the big green tick. Somehow he gradually transforms from an easy going, happily married gentleman into a man desperate for answers without jeopardising any of his likability. If anything his descent into the truth makes us root for him more and Carrey’s ability to manifest such emotion is absolutely heartbreaking at times.
His stints in Man On The Moon and Frank Darabont’s The Majestic further cemented his dramatic capabilities but it probably wasn’t until he shared a screen with Kate Winslet in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind that he truly caught the eye of the naysayers. Again Carrey tugged at our heartstrings as the working class hero drawn into something out-worldy beyond his control. Charlie Kaufmann’s labyrinthine script isn’t easy to follow but Winslet and Carrey’s chemistry helps us almost forget about the intricate plot points and instead makes us zone in on their condemned relationship. Kauffman and his co-scribes picked up the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Winslet received a nomination that year for Best Actress but shamefully Jim Carrey was again ignored by the Academy. In fact despite being in the running for several Golden Globes and BAFTAs over the years, Jim Carrey has never been nominated for an Oscar.
The flippant ease at which Jim Carrey can switch from silly face to silly face and mimic pretty much any voice (and sound) will always leave him easy pickings for oddball comedies but the next time he has your sides splitting with howling guffaw, spare a thought for the Truman Burbank, Peter Appleton or Joel Barish inside of him and remember that in any given split second of his choosing he can turn those tears of laughter into tears of compassion.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter