Jim Carrey may not be the definition of a thespian. Despite being a huge box-office draw, and being relatively beloved by a huge fanbase, Carrey is a divisive actor. Some find his broad comedic appeal revolting, and will avoid seeing him in a movie at all costs. However, if you look a little deeper, you see an actor with more talent than you think.
The hallmark of a great actor, in my eyes at least, is that he or she is adept at both comedy and drama. There are many who choose one and occasionally crossover to the other, and there are some that try and balance both. Jim Carrey is the former – he has carved himself a niche as one of cinema’s top comedians, but he has also proved his ability to do dramatic work. He might well be remembered more for his contributions to broad comedy, but his forays into more dramatic fare will help cement his image as one of the most talented actors working today.
Jim Carrey, like Adam Sandler, is a real box-office draw. To have his name attached to a movie will automatically generate interest, regardless of subject matter. Unlike Sandler, Carrey uses his image positively, and is very picky with his film choices, and tries very hard to not sell-out. He has done some impressively progressive films, and tries to avoid capitalizing on his hit films (despite some of his films being huge moneymakers, the upcoming Dumb and Dumber To is only the second sequel he’s starred in). Not many people realize how Carrey is much more than a comedian – he is a very cautious performer who chooses interesting projects over simply cashing in a paycheck and calling it a day. He has made some bombs, but he still tends to try new roles in different genres.
As usual, here are the seven essential Jim Carrey performances:
- Man on the Moon. By far Jim Carrey’s greatest performance. He tackles the equally strange and iconic Andy Kaufman. He physically devotes himself to the role, capturing the voice and personality of the odd Kaufman perfectly. A real life person is always a goldmine for an actor to get some acclaim, and Carrey gave the lead role in Milos Forman’s exquisite biopic his all, giving new life to a sadly departed comic legend.
- The Truman Show. The role that gave Jim Carrey so much credibility. His performance as the average suburban husband Truman Burbank, who was blissfully unaware that he has for his entire life, been filmed, and his life broadcast as a television show. Going from vulgar comedic actor to something more dramatic would be a challenge for even the most talented actor, but Carrey managed it perfectly. It was a superb performance, that proved that Carrey is insanely good at both comedy and drama.
- Liar Liar. Without a doubt Carrey’s greatest comedic performance. Playing an unethical lawyer cursed by his son to tell only the truth, Carrey gives a performance filled with smart sentimentality and some hilarious physical gags and broad humor. It is one of the great 1990s comedies that was a perfect blend of intelligence and comedy, and it was mostly due to Carrey’s likability and charm.
- I Love You Phillip Morris. After Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it looked like Carrey was done with satirical comedy, choosing to go for some poorly received comedies. He returned to playing a real-life character, this time it being Steven Jay Russell, the former Texan policeman turned con artist who was sent to jail and fell in love with his cellmate, Phillip Morris. Bad distribution meant that the release of I Love You Phillip Morris was sketchy, and it took people a while to be able to see it, and thus it couldn’t build up any momentum. It is a shame, because it remains as one of Carrey’s most wonderful performances.
- Bruce Almighty. A poorly received film, but I loved it. Carrey does what he does best – simply plays a normal guy, and he is given the chance to dip into his crazy side to play Nolan, a reporter given the chance to be God for a little while. It may not be Carrey’s smartest performance, and it was a bit of a muddled mess, but Carrey was consistently funny in the film, and thankfully he did not sign up for the much worse sequel, Evan Almighty.
- The Cable Guy. Carrey has always banked on his ability to be likable and intimidating. In The Cable Guy, a divisive film that went on to become a cult classic, he played a mentally unstable cable installation man who becomes obsessed with one particular customer. It is a sinister and very funny performance that shows the dark side Carrey is able to bring. It will forever be an acquired taste, and for some it is simply too dark, but to others like myself, it is a little slice of genius.
- Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Carrey has never shied away from children’s movies, and he plays the antagonist in the excellent adaptation of the incredible A Series of Unfortunate Events books. His Count Olaf is evil and wonderfully sinister, and it is a shame there were no follow-ups (probably because of Carrey’s reluctance for sequels), because this could have been amazing.
So there we have it – Jim Carrey, a talented performer who is severely underrated as a dramatic actor, and is perfectly apt at any genre. He is a great actor, and has been one of my favorites for a long time. Here is hoping he continues to entertain for many more years to come, because he is truly one of the greatest.