Being John Malkovich


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Being John Malkovich
"It is a triumph of imagination. The real-life Malkovich is put through appalling humiliations, to which he subjects with grace and humour."

Is it possible that ideas have grown wings in Hollywood? Probably not, but things are definitely looking up.

The concept of Being John Malkovich is outlandish and wonderfully mad. Craig (John Cusack) is a failed puppeteer, living with Lotte (Cameron Diaz) in a room full of animals. Out of despair, he applies for a job as a filing clerk in an office where the ceilings are so low everyone walks about doubled up.

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The nature of the business is never revealed. Craig falls in love with the mysterious Maxine (Catherine Keener), who works with him as his "partner". She is flirtatious and unavailable, a cynic and a tease.

One day, he discovers a little door behind a filing cabinet in their office, which leads into a narrow tunnel. He crawls down it and is swept away into the body of John Malkovich, where he remains, observing through the actor's eyes, until being flung out beside the New Jersey Turnpike.

This is only the beginning of a bizarre adventure, which involves Maxine making love to Malkovich when Lotte is inside him, as well as selling tickets for the Malkovich experience.

As a debut for director, Spike Jonze, and writer, Charlie Kaufman, it is a triumph of imagination. The real-life Malkovich is put through appalling humiliations, to which he subjects with grace and humour, producing a truly odd performance, both entertaining, self revealing and really rather clever.

Cusack plays against type and brings to Craig aspects of an unrequited artist, obsessed with new forms of puppetry that noone cares about, so used to rejection that complaint has lost its sting. When he wants, he can wear a Droopy mask and make it fabulous.

Diaz keeps stretching her comedic skills (My Best Friend's Wedding, There's Something About Mary, Very Bad Things). Lotte is somewhere else, a wooly haired oddball, whose need to nurture animals includes her useless, shaggy husband. Once inside Malkovich and experiencing another kind of passion with Maxine, she awakens an alien desire.

Everything about the film is unexpected - the surreal scenario, Diaz's transformation, an uncool Cusack, the thespian victim and a surprise visit from Charlie Sheen. For originality alone, it triumphs.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Being John Malkovich packshot
"New York City, a puppeteer, a tragic marriage, a chimp, a boss, a receptionist, another woman, an actor, the New Jersey Turnpike, and a plate of lasagne." - Spike Jonze
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Read more Being John Malkovich reviews:

Nicholas Dawson ****

Director: Spike Jonze

Writer: Charlie Kaufman

Starring: John Malkovich, John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, Ned Bellamy

Year: 1999

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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