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Jim Carrey: Where to from here?

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While Jim Carrey’s long-delayed I Love You Phillip Morris was pushed again from an April release date to late July, the actor has maintained his public profile via Twitter. Posting as many as 25 tweets in a day, Carrey is as manic (“I’m wearing my ninja turtle underwear right now…”) and reflective (“In a world where ‘sane’ often means ‘inauthentic’, I’d prefer to be called madman!”) as you’d hope or expect. The uncertainty behind Phillip Morris has provided an opportunity for Carrey to ponder his current place in the universe, but the actor isn’t the only person to address it. Esquire‘s Chris Jones dinged the funnyman in a May issue essay (“The State of Jim Carrey,” currently unavailable online) and Hollywood blogger Anne Thompson tackled his current malaise in her recent Career Watch for the U.K.’s Moviefone website. Jones believes Carrey’s latest attempt to be taken seriously is doomed from the start: “Carrey can’t help playing it as a farce. He’s struggled mightily to be taken as a serious actor, and God love him for that — sincerely, it’s a painful and difficult thing, watching someone so gifted not being able to hold the gift he wants most in the world — but it is not who he is…. Jim Carrey was born a clown.” Thompson argues that Carrey simply isn’t as beloved as Tom Hanks or Jack Lemmon, actors he’s frequently compared to in films like The Truman Show and The Majestic, and that he’s best suited for animated and/or multi-role antics, a la Eddie Murphy. That might refer to Carrey’s work in last year’s quite delightful A Christmas Carol, which was a showcase for Carrey’s bubbling energy but also contained some impressively refined character work (even if it was cloaked in animation).

Carrey might be a clown, as Jones concludes, but he’s more than capable — if not always willing — to sublimate that part of himself. Look no further than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Perhaps Jones is simply wrong to conclude that Phillip Morris is another attempt at dramatic credibility. After all, it’s directed by the duo who wrote Bad Santa, and the trailer lacks any whiff of Oscar pretension.

The evolution of the Hollywood funnyman is frequently treacherous (see: Robin Williams), and Thompson’s career advice is reasonable medicine: Carrey should play his own age and continue to look for edgier, smarter comedies. (A Twitter timeout might help matters too.) But as someone who thinks The Truman Show is one of the best films of the last 20 years and has an appreciation for both sides of Carrey’s genius, I think the better move is to work with strong, established directors who can corral his talents to serve the greater story, rather than a slim story that seems only to serve his great talents.

Why isn’t Jim Carrey more beloved? Are you interested in his role as a gay con-man in I Love You Phillip Morris? What would you recommend Carrey do next?

Image Credit: Patti Perret

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