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Being John Malkovich (1999) – Movie Review

Being John Malkovich

Directed by Spike Jonze
Written by Charlie Kaufman
Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Orson Bean

My Advice: Don’t Miss It.

Craig (Cusack) is a puppeteer in a market that won’t support his artwork. Convinced by his wife, Lotte (Diaz), a Doctor Dolittle wannabe, to go get a job, he encounters Maxine (Keener). He finds himself inexplicably drawn to Maxine, but she won’t have anything to do with him. At least, until he finds a small door in their office building that leads into…John Malkovich.

When I first wrote up a page draft on Corona for this film back in December of last year, I figured it would make a nice little art house weirdie if it ever really honestly got made. Even then, production was probably finished, but I couldn’t believe it. What I got, almost a year later, is nothing short of the strangest film I have seen, easily in a decade, possibly ever. And here’s the best part–it’s also a masterpiece. Kaufman and Jonze have managed to craft a film that throws pretty much everything up in the air: psychology, personal and sexual identity, artistic satisfaction. You name it, it’s probably in there somewhere. With plenty to offer in the way of bizarrerie–such as the offices on a building’s 7 1/2th floor to the question of what the New Jersey turnpike really means in a metaphysical sense–it’s got plenty to please those of us who are fans of the surreal yet while keeping enough farcical humor on hand to keep the “normals” in their seats.

[ad#longpost]Also, the actors turn in wonderfully complex performances. John Cusack manages to turn a lustful pathetic whacko into a character one can actually feel pity for. Diaz, complete with Rosanne Rosannadanna hair, delivers his confused spouse dead on. I hereby forgive her for her last several films. I wish I could relate to you some of her classic lines, but they would spoil it for you. Keener plays the bitch role to the hilt. When a man is told he can be Malkovich, he begins to relate an emotional tale of why he wants to be Malkovich, something along the lines of “You see, I’m fat and I’m lonely and—” She cuts him off, “Two hundred dollars, please.” Ouch. Orson Bean plays the great crazy old man to the hilt, discussing the thighs of his “executive liaison” (Mary Kay Place) over carrot juice and providing some of the best gutlaughs of the piece. And last but not least, Malkovich turns in the most varied performance of the film, and is the best sport in the world for taking the role. You only thought you knew what a good actor he was, now see him playing the fictionalized version of himself. It’s grand.

This film is literally one of the most original films I’ve seen in a long time. It is by turns hilarious, disturbing, provocative and moving. As a bonus, just when you think it can’t get any stranger—heh. You’re wrong. It also boasts probably the most unsettling ending to a film I’ve seen this year. Exemplary. Please don’t miss it.

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