Saturday, 21 November 2020

Alternate Best Actor 1994: Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber

Jim Carrey did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber. 

Dumb and Dumber, I find to be quite the hilarious, dumb movie, about two dimwitted friends who go on a cross country trip to return a suitcase to a beautiful woman, that is in fact a ransom. 

Well after despising Natural Born Killers, which I found to be all of Oliver Stone's worst tendencies wrapped within one aggressively unappealing package. Its obviously intended to be off-putting, however I felt it was what it seemed to be deriding, while also seeming to attempt to pretend to have some unearned pretension. I thought what was particularly notable about that film is how so many of the techniques that worked so well in JFK fail horribly there, although many reasons why, but I won't get into that here. Although Woody Harrelson is actually more than decent in his role, I don't feel like devoting a review to that film. Instead I'm going to enjoy myself by discussing Jim Carrey's final film in his breakout banner year. That which opened with his breakthrough with Ace Ventura, then his somewhat more traditional, though still heavily comic turn as any man Stanley Ipkiss, given strange abilities, in The Mask, and finally topped with his work here, that makes itself clear. This after all Carrey is the dumber in the title, and with that I really just need to stop all pretenses and just state my delight for this performance. Now notable is this as I've reviewed Carrey three other times, but none for a pure comedy, even Man on the Moon, is far more interested in its biographical recreations than really the comedy. Carrey of course achieving his stardom through comedy, and with Dumb and Dumber, it is easy to state why. This as we get the greatest purity of this form here in Dumb and Dumber, that to describe as silly might be an understatement, but that's the key of the film, that is largely here just to be hilarious. 

I mean this is pretty obvious from the outset as Carrey appears his least movie starish looking with his simpleton's haircut and his authentic chipped tooth. Carrey's not even an off-beat leading man here, he's a complete goofball just from this image. From the opening scene, where Carrey's Lloyd Christmas pretends to be a limo passengers, when in fact the driver, pretty much sets the tone for his performance, which is really to derive a bit of comedy out of anything. And I mean anything, this from the more obvious in the scene with his over the top reaction to hearing an accent from the woman he's speaking to, to his horrendous accent that isn't even the right one. But also just the way he floats his head down as he closes the limo's window and way of moving back into the front scene, Carrey brings this deft kind of foolishness, as every thing feels right to the simpleton that is Lloyd, while also being hilarious in its awkwardness. I think though there is something about comic performances, particularly leading ones, that requires a little more, and it kind of goes to why am I reviewing this performance and not Ace Ventura. While part is material, another for me is variety. Take Carrey's first scene of picking up the beautiful woman Mary Smasonite (Lauren Holly) to take her to the airport. Carrey is still comic gold in his reaction to see her, however it is difference. He's still goofy in his reaction to her, but rather than energetic awkwardness, it is overly earnest puppy dog adoration that is so funny here instead. His interactions with her throughout the ride are different from his initial scene, and also great, in playing every "romantic" moment so grandly, hilariously and stupidly. 

Carrey's performance in a way, is the balance between being ridiculous, but doing so in an honest way. Now by that nonsense, I mean Carrey is playing the part in that ridiculous fashion, however everything within the logic of his character and what he exudes in the role is true, to Lloyd anyways. Take as he grabs Mary's briefcase to rescue it, but fails to get to her plane, his call to the airport security "don't worry I'm a limo driver" is absolutely sincere, which makes it so funny. Now I think an essential part of this dynamic is in his co-star Jeff Daniels, as the slightly less dumb (I mean he can read), Harry. This as Daniels, who up to this point, definitely was not considered a comic actor best known for his more dramatic turns. Now Daniels obviously doesn't give a dramatic turn here but those sort of instincts though do inform his work in a way, particularly in the way he interacts with Carrey. This as Daniels is this kind of facilitator to Carrey antics, now quite a straight man, that's really all the bystanders, but a balancing factor. This as Daniels doesn't really downplay Harry but he doesn't try to upstage Carrey in turn providing the right sort of anchor. The anchor being that the as much as their interactions are comic in nature, there is a believable sense of their petulant friendship, that is innate in their work. Now having said, they are also just funny together in this dynamic of Daniels in playing bass basically to Carrey's tenor. Whether that is literally (well kinda) when singing their less than stellar rendition of "Mockingbird" to motorist in need, in fact criminal (Mike Starr), or just his expression of grand enjoyment as Carrey unleashes his personalized rendition of the most "annoying sound in the world". 

Now I could just describe a how bunch of individual moments that I love in Carrey's performance here, and I will. You have his maniacal madness when successfully poisoning his friend or imagining murdering Mary's eventual husband, that is mad gold. You have his other fantasy, which really is accentuated by Carrey goodness, with a great particular affection for his own sound effect of "aah" when rising up to face an opponent after seemingly defeated. In fact so many moments that are fantastic in Carrey's work here are the little ones, like his overly intrusive way of looking behind Mary to see he can spot Harry, or his improv exuberance when Lloyd randomly discovers the moon landing, decades later for the first time. Again though there is something about the sincerity of the stupidity, that reaps the laughs. A main instance in this being the scene of Lloyd finally getting to declare his love for Mary without reservation speaking from the heart, right in Carrey's performance, asking if he has a chance. When receiving the news that he does, one in a million, Carrey's reaction sheer hilarity by just how sincere the pure joy he brings to delivering "so you're saying there's a chance". Up until this point though I have avoided what I feel is in a strange way the most important scene in the movie, despite being the only scene that comes close to being serious, and in a way predicted Carrey's later forays there. Although there are many problems in the film's atrocious sequel, one of the central ones is the complete lack of heart, something given by this scene. The scene being when Lloyd and Harry decide to go to Aspen to search for Mary. Carrey is straight forward great in bringing so much genuine emotion, without a hint of irony, as he quietly speaks Lloyd need to no longer eek by and be a nobody and have nobody. Carrey brings the heart in this scene established the needed real motivation in the character behind all the hi-jinks. It's an actually moving moment thanks to Carrey's earnest performance, and it is exactly what the film needs to provide just the right degree humanity. Now having said that, beyond that this is just a hilarious performance that, to me, is the very best example of Carrey going full force with his comedic powers. 


Aidan Pittman said...

Louis: What are your Top 20 Jim Carrey acting moments?

Also, I know I'm super late to this but congrats to Tahmeed on your paper getting published!

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Aidan: Thanks man!

Louis: Glad you listened to my suggestion. What are your ratings and thoughts on Harrelson and the rest of the cast of Natural Born Killers?

Luke Higham said...

Can't wait to see who your Actress winners are.

RatedRStar said...

I really like this film and I love the soundtrack to this film, every song seems to fit perfectly especially The Cowsills song when Lloyd dreams as he goes to deliver the case to Marys front door.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: The Macpoyle brothers as Rosencrantz & Guildenstern?

Louis Morgan said...


I believe I've given that.


Harrelson & Lewis - 3.5(Part of my hatred for the film stems from the glorification of the central character, where Stone is also criticizing such glorification in complete hypocrisy. This in his sympathy for them for being "true" to their morality is frankly disgusting. Anyways though Harrelson and Lewis are both good in hitting that note of visceral demented insanity. Having said that though there is a limitation because Stone seems to love them so much they are in a strange filter of adoration. Both are good in just being this extreme intention, but it is also repetitive).

Downey Jr. - 3.5(Convincing accent and in general gives a fine portrayal of sort of the sleazy type of mania that infests his character. Where the character goes is tiresome, but Downey does bring the needed sort of nearly drooling intensity in an effective way.)

Sizemore - 3(His typical sleazy psycho shtick, but he does it well.)

Jones - 3(Honestly is largely wasted, however I do like that he attempts to find minor moments of nuance in his reactions at times even if the film isn't at all interested.)

Dangerfield - 3(Clearly doesn't know what's going on, however it does work in playing it straight to the sitcom approach even as that isn't at all what he is portraying.)



Luke Higham said...

And Jackson now has his 4th five. :)