BEING JOHN MALKOVICH

Directed by Spike Jonze. USA. 1999.


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Have you ever found yourself at a party full of academics, versed in a subject you have no experience in? They start talking about the topic of choice, and you feel like itís another language. Itís a feeling of being stupid, but you listen gamely, feeling incredibly left out. At least you might have merely been invited to a party. Imagine paying out money to have that same lovely experience in your own home.

Iíd love to tell you all about the plot of Being John Malkovich except in order to do that Iíd have to have some idea of it myself. Something about puppetry, a broken down elevator that only goes to the 7 ½ floor and the ability to teleport into John Malkovichís brain. I think I officially lost track of my interest in this one watching John Cusack fall out of Malkovichís nose.

As far as I could tell, this freakish film is about puppeteer Craig Schwartz. After futilely searching for work, he finally lands a job, (much to wife Lotteís satisfaction) on the 7 ½ floor of a mysterious office building. In his first week on the job he not only strikes up a friendship with office worker Maxine, but also discovers a portal that allows a trip into the mind and life of Malkovich for fifteen minutes. Things start to go awry when Schwartz decides to make money selling trips (hahahaha *trips* hahahaha) through the portal.

John Cusack (Grosse Pointe Blank, High Fidelity) stars as the enterprising puppeteer. Although he is genuinely trying to create a sympathetic character here, he is totally bogged down by the fact that all his mannerisms and facial expressions are saying the same thing: ďWhat the hell is this movie about?Ē Itís fine to appear to be confused, itís another thing all together to appear to be apologizing to the audience for taking their money. Cusack is so perfectly quirky in everything Iíve ever seen him in, that this is definitely a lunge in the wrong direction. I always tend to applaud those celebrities brave enough to try and run over a typecasting line; but here Cusack has run over it, backed up and run over it again, and sped miles and miles away without ever considering that the line may have had merit.

Cameron Diaz (The Last Supper, The Mask) plays Craigís shrew of a wife, Lotte. Here again, is a performer trying to shed her typical onscreen image by running too far in the opposite direction. Diaz has a well established fan base of those who admire her turns as the adorable girl we can all identify with. Her fans will not be too pleased with this one, as there is almost nothing likeable about this grating character. Itís a good thing to try and shed your onscreen boundaries, but not to the total alienation of your fan base.

Being John Malkovich or just being weird? All Rights Reserved.All rumours of his strange personality aside, the worst performance in this film comes from the actor playing himself; John Malkovich. Before seeing this movie I had always associated Malkovich with his role in Dangerous Liaisons; as the charismatic seducer. Now all I have in my head are images of him exhibiting all the social sophistication of a cranky two year old. Heís done nothing here but take away from his powerful body of work that his fans adore, replacing it with a sense of nervousness at shelling out for the next Malkovich movie ticket.

I have been told mid-rant about this film that the only way to fully appreciate itís unorthodox storyline is to be firmly ensconced in a mind altering substance of some kind. To that I say that Tim Burtonís slice of oddness Mars Attacks was capable of being as bizarre as Being John Malkovich aspired to be without one. Take your drug of choice away, and all youíre left with is a movie thatís trying waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hard to be outrageous, while succeeding only at making itís audience feel like they need to laugh along at a joke that only the director Spike Jonze  understands. This will not be a video experience I will be repeating, and I would recommend that fans of the actors involved stay far away. 

Jen Johnston
 
 
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