Saturday, December 17, 2011

#488. Being John Malkovich (1999)

Directed By: Spike Jonze

Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener

Tag line: "Ever wanted to be someone else? Now you can"

Trivia:  Charlie Kaufman sent the screenplay to Francis Ford Coppola after he wrote it. Coppola liked it very much and showed it to his daughter's husband, Spike Jonze.

I can say with total confidence that you have never seen anything quite like Being John Malkovich before. 

Out-of-work puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is married to Lotte (Cameron Diaz), who works at a veterinarian's office and brings sick chimpanzees home to live with them in their small apartment. 

In need of money, Craig gets a job as a file clerk on the 7th and ½ floor of New York's Mertin-Flemmer building, where he reports to the lecherous Dr. Lester (Orson Bean), who claims to be 105 years old.  It’s here that Craig meets Maxine (Catherine Keener), an abrasive co-worker with whom he falls desperately in love. 

One day, Craig discovers a small door hidden behind a filing cabinet in his office. Behind this door is a portal that leads directly into the mind of renowned actor John Malkovich (played by Malkovich himself). Anyone entering this portal essentially “becomes” John Malkovich for 15 minutes, seeing the world through his eyes and feeling everything he feels. Once the 15 minutes are up, the portal ejects you from Malkovich's head and dumps you on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. 

Sensing an opportunity to make big money, Craig teams up with Maxine and starts charging 'admission' to the Malkovich portal, promising all who enter an experience they won't soon forget.

Believe it or not, this is just the beginning; As Being John Malkovich progresses, things actually get weirder

Eventually, Craig tells Lotte about the Malkovich portal, and she insists on taking a trip inside. At the end of her 15 minutes, Lotte is convinced she’s a man trapped inside a woman’s body, and even falls in love with Maxine, putting her in direct competition with Craig. 

Then there's the scene where Malkovich, having learned of the portal's existence, takes a trip inside himself

It’s as if screenwriter Charlie Kaufman poured every ounce of his creativity into this film, leaving absolutely nothing out. What's more amazing than the movie's various twists and turns is the fact we buy it all hook, line and sinker.

For those who believe originality is dead, I would use as a counter-argument Being John Malkovich. If this movie has taught me anything, it’s that there are literally thousands of ideas left to be explored, including some I would have never dreamed possible!


John Erwin said...

Such an absurdly entertaining movie. While there are certainly stranger movies out there - this one is uniquely odd in so many ways that is endlessly amusing.

DVD Infatuation said...

John: Thanks so much for the comment, and for stopping by!

I couldn't agree more...when you look at the film's synopsis on paper, you'll undoubtedly be scratching your head, yet it all comes together beautifully and, yes, even convincingly.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

One of the First DVDs I Ever Owned. Such an Original Plot. I Can't Even Recall a Lot of Movies Made about Puppeteers before this Came Out, Let Alone a Puppeteer Who Finds a Portal into the Brain of an Amazing Actor. Who Better to Control the Brain of an Actor than a Puppeteer? George Lucas would Kill for a Few of Those Portals. Great Review!