Worth A Look: 13.41%
Pretty Bad: 3.07%
Total Crap: 6.13%
19 reviews, 147 user ratings
|Being John Malkovich
by Dust For Eyes
'Being John Malkovich' continues with this habit of messing with reality and messing with your brain.OK.
"Schizophrenia made fun and easy."
I am real - I'm pretty sure of that. That Descartes thing backs me up.
Any other statements about what is reality are pure conjecture as far as I'm concerned.
It has long been the habit of film to make up their own version of reality to effect the audience. When cinema first started, we've all heard how people were running out of theatres because they thought what they saw was real. They would see a train coming towards them and they were getting the hell out of the way.
Nowadays we are not so easily fooled. We know it's not real.
That's just as well for Jar Jar Binks' sake because there would be a worldwide lynch mob to hunt him down, and gun him down cold. Yeah, you can wait in line.
We still like to delve into the reality of the story. That's how we care about the outcome of the film and that's how we get entertained. It was sad to see Romeo and Juliet kill themselves. Yet it's not real - Leo and Clare didn't really kill themselves. We are comfortable in that knowledge.
Naturally enough people started messing about with this comfort.
We've just had 'The Blair Witch Project' with it's it-is-real-except-it's-not-except-it-is mind twist. In television Emma Thompson was in 'Ellen' playing an actor named Emma Thompson, but she wasn't playing herself since the Emma of the episode was a lesbian. Thompson, the actor, isn't - I don't think so anyway. Ask Greg Wise - he's fathering a child with Thompson.
John Malkovich - as the film points out - is one of those widely respected actors whose reputation as a great actor is so well and truly established that he doesn't really need to have a popular film to be a popular choice for a film. If you need a top quality actor for a film, you get Malkovich. He doesn't need to pander to the populists and that makes him cool.
Remember all those people trapped in other people's bodies films? '18 Again!' 'Big.' Yes, I hated them too. It's stuff for Star Trek and The X-Files to do - and they did - Especially Star Trek. Repeatedly.
This messing with reality, people's minds and being in other people's bodies are brought together in the year's best comedy, 'Being John Malkovich'.
Craig Schwartz (a very different looking Cusack with the long hair and unshaven look) is a puppeteer. Quite a good one in fact - the puppetry of the movie is wonderful. What he loves about it is how he can become another person - getting into the body of the puppet's character. Despite his excellence in his craft, he can't get a decent gig and is relegated to street busking - which often ends in Craig getting beaten up due to the explicit nature of the shows.
Craig's wife Lotte (Diaz, looking virtually unrecognisable) is not happy with how her husband's life is going and coaxes Craig to look for a job. No puppeteer jobs going, but there is an office job for someone with particularly dexterous and nimble fingers. That's right up Craig's alley with his puppeteer's hands and he gets the job.
The office is on the 7½ floor of a building where the ceilings are only 4 feet high. Everyone needs to crouch to get around and you need to use the emergency stop button in the lift to get there. Craig meets up with the rather narcissistic Maxine (Keneer) with whom he becomes infatuated.
While foraging after a lost file, Craig comes across a door hidden behind a filing cabinet. He opens the door, crawls down a passageway, which suddenly - somehow, don't ask me - transports Craig into looking out through the eyes of another person. Craig has inadvertently discovered a portal into the consciousness of John Malkovich.
Utra-bizarro-weird, I know, but, hey, it's John Malkovich - so it's cool.
Being America, Craig and Maxine set out to make some money with the portal.
Director, Spike Jonze made a name for himself making music video clips. He was responsible for the Daft Punk song with the dog/person walking around the streets at night. He was also responsible for The Beastie Boys, 'Sabotage' which was a spoof of 70s cop TV shows.
He had established an interest in the quirky, hilarious and down right strange. It is these qualities that are displayed to the maximum in this thoroughly enjoyable and fun film.
When John Malkovich first heard about his film being made, he wanted it stopped. When he had read the script, he wanted to be in it.
That tells you the secret to the success of the film - the story. You can make up your own mind about the actors (very good), the direction and design (fine), but it's Charlie Kaufman's script that has you goggled eyed and laughing.
Malkovich was a good sport to let himself be subjected to this film. Despite his lofty reputation it's good that he doesn't have to take himself so seriously all the time.
The story is a bit like an old Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories episode. You have a basically normal person - maybe a bit of an outsider - who suddenly has to deal with the strangest possible predicament. This film will appeal to fans of those old TV shows.
In the credits the character is called John Horatio Malkovich even though Malkovich's middle name is Gavin - Horatio might be a Hamlet reference (I'll leave that to you to find out). Malkovich has said that the on screen character only bears the faintest resemblance to him the real person.
The appearance of Malkovich as more or less himself and the appearance of other actors as themselves delve headfirst into the what-is-real-and-what-isn't territory. It's all rather confusing, but that's great.
Having your mind messed with occasionally is a good thing.I have written more than I should - and wanted to write more - about this film. Maybe that's telling me that this film, despite being a comedy, is quite a thoughtful and thought provoking film. Excellent! They can mess with my sense of reality any time if films as superb as this one keep being produced.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1352&reviewer=166
originally posted: 12/15/99 20:18:05