80 of 1001 Movies: Being John Malkovich (1999)

It’s a good thing I didn’t know Spike Jonze directed Where the Wild Things Are prior to this. To go ahead and admit there were high expectations from Being John Malkovich. It’s one of those movies that constantly airs on television that just caught my interest yet I hadn’t watched yet. It’s sort of an unsettling, but yet totally unique and creative movie with a story line that is completely original. You also have a zany cast of characters that almost seem like they belong nowhere in the real world.

Craig Schwartz is a struggling puppeteer who finds his art isn’t bringing him that much success, and his street performances are just getting him beat up. So he looks for a job in the paper, which lands him at an odd place of employment on a floor that is known as 7 and a half since it is between the 7th and 8th floor. The ceilings are low, and the elevator has to be stopped between the forcefully to reach it. Craig isn’t very satisfied with his life, or wife until things begin to change when he meets Maxine, a woman he falls deeply in love with. He also discovers a portal in his office to the mind of John Malkovich. He visits it once, but then decides he would be better of selling 15 minute excursions to people who want to be him for 15 minutes. His wife, Lotte, gives it a try also, but finds herself obsessed with being John Malkovich to the point she can only function when him.

The premise is just brilliant. Just because it’s John Malkovich it just makes it more odd. At the time he was known, but not too known, so he just fit the odd choice they needed for an odd movie. John Cusack also looks nothing like himself in this film as Craig, and somehow he makes this guy so unlikable that even at the end you feel no pity for how he ends up. Craig just seems like a guy you don’t like straight from the beginning. Honestly, none of the characters are that likable, which may be something that slightly takes away from the movie. Lotte seems sweet, but she is way too weird to want to associate with her. Craig just doesn’t seem to take any care about anything. His appearance is slouch, and even after he tries living as John Malkovich he makes him look like a slouch too.

Cameron Diaz is actually a good actress. She hasn’t been in anything too good recently, but her earlier works show a lot more talented side of her. Lotte isn’t attractive, and she is some strange animal lady, but she is one of the most intriguing characters in the cast. Also, Catherine Keener plays Maxine. I had no idea she was the same lady who was Into the Wild. Maxine is probably the least likable of the crew. She uses this married couple for her own entertainment, not even caring they both love her, and she is stepping in between two people in a really bad marriage.

Somehow everyone slowly falls into the place they belong by the end of it, and you realize these people are simply unlikable because every single bad human quality was put upon them. It’s what makes them so weird, just as the movie is in the first place. There is almost nothing human about them they are so zany. What is proven though is that everyone wants to be someone else at some point…except Maxine as she is the only one who never goes through the portal. Instead she rides off what Lotte and Craig give her by being Malkovich.

With John Malkovich being himself, and all the other cast portraying their characters spot on it is ultimately a movie you will want to go back and watch again and again just to see if you get something different from it each time. At first it just comes off as a creative movie, and from there you start to think about the deep brokenness of the character. Then you just wonder what happened to them all after their lives were profoundly changed by this experience. Being John Malkovich is definitely an enjoyable, and odd watch though.

Rating 4.5 of 5.

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