Jim Carrey will loom large in our shattered posterity, I believe, because his filmography amounts to a uniquely sustained engagement with the problem of the self. Who knows how the self became such a problem, or when we began to feel the falseness in our nature? “There’s another man within me, that’s angry with me,” wrote Sir Thomas Browne in Religio Medici, three and a half centuries before the scene in Liar Liar where the hero stuffs his own head into the toilet bowl. Other clowns have risen since Carrey first stormed the multiplexes with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective–Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Seth Rogen–but for more than a decade now, he has been the go-to guy for high-concept metaphysics, for Hollywood’s sci-fi of the self. How about … an insurance salesman who discovers that his whole life is an elaborate fiction created by a malign TV producer?! Or–yeah!–a mendacious lawyer compelled to tell the truth for 24 hours?! Or even a blacklisted screenwriter (The Majestic) who loses his memory and wakes up to find that everybody thinks he’s a war hero?!