As we near the end of Eternal Sunshine Week here at CineMunch, I thought I'd take a moment to highlight who I think gives the best performance in the film (and this is a film featuring several 'best' performances): Jim Carrey as Joel Barish. Kate Winslet may get all the praise (and Oscar nominations), and, indeed, she turns in a stellar, uninhibited gem of a performance that even she agrees was a turning point in her career, but it's Carrey who grounds the film with his expressive face and beating heart. I fall for him every time.
Though I've always loved Jim Carrey. His ascendance in 1994 with Dumb & Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Mask was catnip to my 10-year-old self. I watched The Mask on repeat, and I even dressed as Ace Ventura for Halloween that year (though at the last minute I decided I didn't like the mask that came with the costume and instead opted to be a butterfly -- the gay in me won out on that one, I guess). His exaggerated comedic style really clicked with me (as I'm sure it did with many young men), but as I aged, so did Carrey as an actor.
His days as a titan of the box office are likely behind him, but over the years he's proved his worth as more than just a celebrity. He continues to pick interesting projects (though more I Love You Phillip Morrises than Yes Mans, please), and I have hope that one day he'll get the respect as an accomplished actor that I think he deserves (or at least an overdue tip of the hat from Oscar).
Not to bury the lede, but we all know what #1 is. Join me anyway as we count backwards through Jim's ten best screen performances.
10. Bruce Nolan in Bruce Almighty (2003)
A more than decent Hollywood comedy with Jim playing an aspiring newscaster who learns how difficult it is to be God (or Morgan Freeman, I'm not quite sure). The romantic subplot involving an always-winning Jennifer Aniston (I'll defend her till the end, also) adds heart and works much better here than it does in other Carrey comedies like Me, Myself, & Irene or Yes Man.
9. Ace Ventura in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
A classic. I mean, Jim Carrey gets to be truly obnoxious (really, the worst), and yet I still have fun with this one. Never once does Ace seem like a genuine human being, but Carrey is so committed and somehow lovably funny that he sells the whole movie for me.
8. The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Carrey's comedic stylings can often be larger than life, so his portrayal of this iconic holiday character was a great match for the colorful world of Dr. Seuss (and better than Jack Nicholson or Eddie Murphy who were at one time considered for the role). Bonus points: "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"
7. Fletcher Reede in Liar Liar (1997)
Another concept comedy that Jim Carrey excelled at in the mid-90s, it was Liar Liar that first made me take him seriously as an actor. Sure he gets into his usual antics, but his dealings with Justin Cooper (as his son) and Maura Tierney (as his ex-wife) bring authenticity and depth to the character and ground Carrey in a way he hadn't yet been (he further developed this goofy everyman persona the following year in the film at #2 on this list).
6. Steven Russell in I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
This darkly comedic film was a daring choice for Carrey. The story of a conman who falls for a fellow prisoner can border on the absurd (though it's based on a true story), but you believe and root for Carrey's Steven Russell at every step of the way. His chemistry with Ewan McGregor is pretty great, too.
5. Peter Appleton in The Majestic (2001)
This movie isn't perfect, though it's super underrated. The film harkens back to classic Frank Capra films and casts Carrey as a James Stewart-type, which I think is great casting. Treacly and too earnest, the film doesn't quite soar, but Jim Carrey delivers a focused, appealing, and restrained performance that's one of his best.
4. Stanley Ipkiss in The Mask (1994)
He is ideally suited for what is essentially a cartoon character, and he received the first of his six Golden Globe nominations for this one, a personal favorite. It's delightfully over-the-top, but this is the defining screwball Jim Carrey of the 90s performance for me.
3. Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon (1999)
Jim Carrey is nothing if not incredibly committed. And you'd have to be to make some of the roles he's played work, but his dedication and precision in portraying Andy Kaufman took him to the next level as an actor. He deservingly won his second of two Golden Globes for this performance.
2. Truman Burbank in The Truman Show (1998)
The first time the rest of the world took Jim seriously as an actor (his first Golden Globe win -- in the Drama category, no less). He toned down his schtick (slightly) and the results were pretty dynamite. It's a perfect match of role and actor.
1. Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Maybe one day I'll be able to put into words how fantastic I think he is in this movie. Borderline perfection.
Carrey can be a divisive actor, but I have hope he's got at least one more Eternal Sunshine or Truman Show in him. What are your favorite Jim Carrey performances?