Film: Being John Malkovich

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Film:

Being John Malkovich

Director: Spike Jonze
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Universal Studios

While too many movies suffer the fate of creative bankruptcy, Being John Malkovich is a refreshing study in contrast, so bracingly original that you’ll want to send director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman a thank-you note for restoring your faith in the enchantment of film. Even if it ultimately serves little purpose beyond the thrill of comedic invention, this demented romance is gloriously entertaining, spilling over with ideas that tickle the brain and even touch the heart. That’s to be expected in a movie that dares to ponder the…

Reviews

Amazon.com

While too many movies suffer the fate of creative bankruptcy, Being John Malkovich is a refreshing study in contrast, so bracingly original that you’ll want to send director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman a thank-you note for restoring your faith in the enchantment of film. Even if it ultimately serves little purpose beyond the thrill of comedic invention, this demented romance is gloriously entertaining, spilling over with ideas that tickle the brain and even touch the heart. That’s to be expected in a movie that dares to ponder the existential dilemma of a forlorn puppeteer (John Cusack) who discovers a metaphysical portal into the brain of actor John Malkovich.

The puppeteer’s working as a file clerk on the seventh-and-a-half floor of a Manhattan office building; this idea alone might serve as the comedic basis for an entire film, but Jonze and Kaufman are just getting started. Add a devious coworker (Catherine Keener), Cusack’s dowdy wife (a barely recognizable Cameron Diaz), and a business scheme to capitalize on the thrill of being John Malkovich, and you’ve got a movie that just gets crazier as it plays by its own outrageous rules. Malkovich himself is the film’s pièce de résistance, riffing on his own persona with obvious delight and—when he enters his own brain via the portal—appearing with multiple versions of himself in a tour-de-force use of digital trickery. Does it add up to much? Not really. But for 112 liberating minutes, Being John Malkovich is a wild place to visit. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

This hilarious, breathtakingly original feature debut by music video director Spike Jonze is Alice in Wonderland for the age of celebrity: the rabbit hole that the characters fall into is actor John Malkovich’s head. On the seventh and a half floor of a Manhattan office building (yes, half floor—that’s why everyone’s stooping), a nebbishy puppeteer (John Cusack) discovers a door that delivers him straight into the mind of Malkovich. The ride is thrilling, but the portal turns out to be a Pandora’s box: opening it sets hearts afire and desires running amuck. Cameron Diaz, sporting seriously bad hair, gamely turns her babe wattage way down to play Cusack’s plain Jane wife, while Catherine Keener (Your Friends and Neighbors) plays Cusack’s seductive office colleague and the object of everyone’s obsession. Malkovich, playing himself, does a delicious satire on his own celebrity lifestyle. Watching this film, filled with mistaken identities and dizzying plot twists that never let up, is a bit like being in a car with a crazy but brilliant driver—unnerving but an awful lot of fun. John Guida

Related Works

Album:Being John Malkovich: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Being John Malkovich: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Carter Burwell

Writing a soundtrack for Being John Malkovich couldn't have been an easy task for Carter Burwell. How many films so freely sneak between absurdity, fantasy, and dark melancholy--often in the same scene? Thankfully, the film composer rose to the task. The music of Being John Malkovich varies from introspective simple piano solos to a snippet of Bartók, but mostly revolves around an orchestrated theme found from the start of the movie (heard in the track "Puppet Love" all the way through "Future Vessel"). There are some odd surprises, such as…

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