Yet another bizarre premise concocted from the mind of Charlie Kaufman.
Being John Malkovich (1999) is a comedy/fantasy directed by Spike Jonze and starring John Cusack as Craig Schwartz, a puppeteer struggling with his craft and the affections of his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz). But after he discovers a doorway into the mind of actor John Malkovich at his new workplace, he begins to discover a new lease on his life. Well, a new lease on Malkovich’s life.
Weird idea, but it completely works. Due to the absurdly surreal nature of this film, very little is explained properly or elaborated on, making a plot that, while very odd and original, doesn’t make a tonne of sense. Like Kaufman’s other films (note he’s the writer of Malkovich), logic isn’t the key concern here and instead the audience needs to accept the bizarre events and logic leaps or get left behind scratching their heads.
And outside of logic, this is a great script. Its funny, emotional, weird and incredibly imaginative. There’s enough original ideas here to make 5 different movies, but instead they’ve all been crammed into one trippy experience. It makes for a unique, hilarious and (mostly) enjoyable two hour outing through Kaufman’s imagination.
Apart from the titular Malkovich, the choices of Diaz and Cusack in their roles is just as odd as the premise. Unfortunately Cusack is definitively the weakest link in the movie as protagonist Craig. He’s just too bland and uninterested. While Diaz is a tad better, she’s still not on the level of Malkovich and other supporting actress Catherine Keener. Keener (who was actually nominated for an Oscar) is one of the most entertaining characters of the film – she’s delightfully sadistic and playful, and the most memorable of the performances. And Malkovich himself? Well, lets just say that the film itself pumps up how good an actor he is for a reason.
Anyone interested in original ideas will find them by the truckload in this intelligent and funny Kaufman film. Some of the actors may be questionable, certainly, but the script alone is worth the price of admission, and any film with so many good ideas should be properly appreciated.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
Arthousers: Highly Recommended