‘Number 23’: Ranking Jim Carrey’s most serious roles
If you didn’t see it already, the latest collaboration between Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind) and Jim Carrey (Liar Liar) is available to stream on Hulu. Entitled Kidding, the TV show marks the first time the director-actor pairing has come together since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fourteen years ago. The Showtime series sees Carrey channel Mr. Rogers as a kids’ TV icon whose wisdom and kind nature to America’s children is threatened once he starts losing a grip on reality following the implosion of his family.
The show looks as hilarious as it does heartbreaking and is ready to be added to the more serious end of the actor’s performances. For decades Carrey has kept our sides splitting with his twisted, maniacal facial expressions and hyperbolic, animated characters – from Stanley Ipkiss’s green-faced alter ego in The Mask to the moronic Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber to our favorite bird-like pet detective Ace Ventura.
But while he’s maintained a reputation as the funny man of Hollywood, that’s not to say Carrey’s serious roles are to be ignored. Proving his acting chops over the years in unexpected films that broke the boundaries of what we were used to from Carrey, here’s a ranking of the actor’s best roles in which he’s not flexing his comedic muscles like a roided bodybuilder.
Number 23 (2007)
Oh, Carrey – what were you thinking? No amount of twos and threes could help this film be anything other than a big fat zero. Although the actor gave it his best shot within a horror context, we couldn’t help but imagine as he was desperately scrawling numbers all over his wall, he was about to write “the pen is rrrrrrrrrroyal blue!” before attacking himself with a biro. That said, if you’re looking at it from an accidental comedy perspective, Number 23 comes up trumps.
Dark Crimes (2016)
Carrey stars alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist) in this gritty crime drama about a detective who turns to clues found in an author’s book about an eerily similar crime to the one he’s investigating. Based on the 2008 article “True Crimes – A Postmodern Murder Mystery” by David Grann, Dark Crimes is a gripping and suspenseful drama and one that is well shot.
While Carrey clearly gave it his all as the brooding cop, he perhaps went a little too far when it came to toning himself down, resulting in the actor seeming a little trapped within the role.
The Majestic (2001)
Often considered one of Carrey’s best dramatic roles, the actor plays Peter Appleton – a Hollywood screenwriter who suffers an accident and loses all memory of who he is. When he’s taken in by a nearby town, he embarks on a new life as the person the locals take him to be. This was the first time Carrey had opened up to show a bit of vulnerability and it paid off, and although it’s not up there with the greatest cinematic feats of all time, it was an unexpectedly moving performance from an otherwise satirical actor.
The Truman Show (1998)
“Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!” Those were the words spoken everyday to his neighbors by Truman Burbank – the sweet, naïve, suburban husband who would’ve been the archetypal Average Joe had his entire life not been an actual TV show played out for the world’s entertainment. This was the perfect moment for Carrey to shine and he made good use of the movie’s humorous moments while also conveying the sadder, moving scenes with conviction.
Man on the Moon (1999)
The world was made a more wonderful place thanks to Carrey’s iconic performance as the late, great Andy Kaufman, who was considered to be the most innovative, eccentric, and enigmatic performers of his time.
Jim Carrey’s depiction was so intensively realistic that it became the subject of the Netflix documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, in which director Chris Smith used 100 hours of footage from the set of the film to show Carrey’s transformation into the Kaufman. The comedian’s old friends & colleagues even felt Carrey’s resemblance was eerily reminiscent of the original. The funeral scene still gets us everytime. Remember folks – the world is a wonderful place.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
So subtle was he in his depiction of depression and convincing with his portrayal of inner-turmoil, we almost forgot we were looking at the same man who sold a dead bird to a blind kid or danced with Maracas in a green mask.
Carrey went above and beyond for his role in Michel Gondry’s anti-romance as a man who took desperate measures to forget the woman he once loved. As opposed to Dark Crimes, Carrey suppressed the mania inside without losing any of his charisma and what resulted was a truly beautiful (and utterly depressing) vision of a relationship turned sour.