Feature // Breaking Sad: The Ever-changing Face of Jim Carrey

Illustration by Thomas Durham.

This month sees Jim Carrey return to regular television for the first time since 1994. Best known for playing zany, outlandish characters, Carrey’s new show airing on Showtime (US) and Sky Atlantic (UK) will see him in a role much more in line with the sad clown persona that has dominated the last decade of his personal life.

Kidding, the most recent project from director-producer Michel Gondry centres around Mr. Pickles, a children’s television host who despite his comforting words and sage advice to children in front of a camera, sees his life and marriage break down behind it. Opposite Carrey is Catherine Keener playing his sister, and Frank Langella as his father. Joining Carrey and Gondry as producer is Arrested Development star and Ozark executive producer Jason Bateman.

Despite having made his name in comedy, Carrey’s career has been an interesting mix of comedy, drama, romantic and even children’s films. He has consistently found himself in challenging roles that seem to satisfy not only the hunger of critics, but function as an artistic outlet for Carrey himself. Specifically, The Truman Show, Man on The Moon, Bruce Almighty and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have proven his ability to portray men struggling with deep personal issues. Something which has become less and less fictional as his career has progressed. His public battle with depression, controversial anti-vaccination position and eccentric personality have rendered Carrey a somewhat damaged persona offscreen.

Onscreen his acting methods have occasionally caused problems too. Man on The Moon, the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic saw Carrey stay in character for the entire duration of the shoot, much to the annoyance of anyone he crossed paths with- crashing cars on set and generally being loud and obnoxious throughout. His eccentric turn during this time was the subject of a documentary, Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond which showed just how difficult he could be to work with, opening the eyes of the world to an obsessive personality that seemed to place art over self.

In 2013 Carrey surprised the marketing team behind Kick Ass 2 when he withdrew support for the then-unreleased film and ceased promotion on account of the level of child violence it portrayed. His decision was in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting which took place during filming. Carrey felt that promoting the film any further would be to promote such violence among children. Further hard times would come in 2016 when the death of ex partner Cathriona White, found dead after a prescription drug overdose cast another shadow over his life. This began a high profile legal battle as White’s mother and husband both filed separate legal actions against him, citing his personal involvement with White and celebrity lifestyle as facilitating her death.

In the years since, Carrey has kept a low profile and taken a handful of smaller film roles. His mostly significant response to these recent troubling times has seen him turn to art to express himself. Last year he was the subject of a short online documentary “I Needed Colour”, which touched on the therapeutic qualities of art he has taken refuge in. In the film it is very apparent how fragile Carrey is, and perhaps always has been. It is this fragile, artistic nature that Kidding will tap into, allowing Carrey to flesh out a character he has a lot of common ground with over the course of a series.

Kidding marks the second collaboration between Carrey and director Michel Gondry, having previously worked together on the critically acclaimed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2004. Will this new role as a funnyman struggling behind the camera finally see Carrey’s personal and professional lives align for something truly special?

Kidding airs Sundays on Showtime and on Sky Atlantic in the UK later this year.

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