* Prices may differ from that shown
When looking at this film retrospectively it seems no less surreal of a film experience. It takes only minutes for the nature of the film to grasp the viewer in it's bizarre clutches. However something that makes this film not only a unique experience but also a quality one is that this hold upon the audience is sustained throughout the feature, each new scene will introduce you to a new odd experience. These experiences will leave your mind wondering into conceptual spaces you had previously left unexplored as this film introduces concepts each fit to be an entire feature. Despite this the pacing maintains a pace allowing just enough time for one not to get lost in the story or feel as though the story is crammed.
The cast of this film (John Cusack as our protagonist, a puppeteer named Craig Swartz, Cameron Diaz as his animal obsessed wife, Catherine Keener as a woman you catches Craig's eye, and of course the titular John Malkovitch as himself) give a spectacular performance allowing for the viewer to properly identify with the characters that we are presented with. Of particular note however must be John Malkovitch himself, his performance as a character who undergoes such strange situations is incredibly enjoyable to experience and is no doubt a landmark in his career.
All in all this film holds up to the modern day standards for a film. I think that with the recent rise in interest in some of the subject matters regarding Cameron Diaz's character in particular this film is almost more relevant then it has ever been before. This is a feature well worth a watch and is likely a welcome change in pace even for someone who is not usually a fan of this genre of almost abstract films.
Being John Malkovich has to be one of the strangest film I've ever seen and it is for that reason that it is one of my all time favourites! I love the fact that it has some of hollywoods biggest stars in yet has one of the wackiest plots ever. The premise for the film is that puppeteer Craig Swartz (John Cusack) lives with his doudy wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) and is trying to make ends meet. When he finally gets proper job working in a office doing some filing work, he meets a woman called Maxine (Catherine Keener). Although he's married he hits on her but she thinks he is a sap. One day Craig finds a tiny door behind some filing cabinates. This door leads into to a portal of John malkovich (playing himself). It allows you to see, and feel whatever he does for 15 minutes and then spits you out at the New Jersey turnpike. He lets his wife have a go, who is amazed how good it feels to be a man. He then shows it to Maxine. She decides they could make some serious dough if they sell tickets to people for 15 minute trips into Malkovich. Craig continues to become Malkovich himself and after a while he discovers he can manipulate him and eventually can control him. Lotte also continues to go in the portal and the two vie for Maxine's affections as Malkovich. But when Malkovich discovers what's going on things start to unravel and get messy. Complicated huh? Well it's harder to explain than to watch. I think this quirky film is a real gem and I've personally seen it over twenty times. It is a dark film, with heaps of black comedy in it. Lotte is a great character and a real departure from the usual characters Diaz plays. In this she is actually the frizzy haired frump instead of the pin up and I have to say she pulls it off well. Cusack is very believeable as the geeky, downtrodden husband desperate for a break, wiling to do anything to get the woman he is obssesed with. It might make your head spin with the explanation of how everything came about at he end but it really is a supurb film.
Craig Schwatz (John Cusak) is a puppeteer, he is very talented but isn't very successful, how successful can you be as a puppeteer who busks on the street? He is married to Lottie (Cameron Diaz) their marriage is failing, and Craig is finding it hard to support her and her rather large animal collection.
He finds himself a job in an office, but this office is a little unusual the ceilings are low and the boss seems to think that he has a speech impediment because of his secretary but can speak fine. He also meets Maxine (Catherine Keener) and immediately becomes attracted to her, but she isn't attracted to him.
One day at work behind some filing cabinets he finds a door, which of course he decides to explore. When he goes down the hole he discovers that it leads to the mind of John Malkovitch. When he tells Maxine about this they decide that they can turn this into a money making scheme, they decide to get people to pay for the chance to be John Malkovitch for 15 minutes.
Lottie wants to become more involved with her husbands business, and invites Maxine round for tea one evening she finds that she is attracted to Maxine as well, but Maxine isn't interested in her either.
The relationship between Lottie and Maxine evolves with the help of John Malkovitch and Craig finds out that he is also able to control Malkovitch and can stay in his mind for a longer time than everyone else. Also what happens when Malkovitch finds out and he enters his own mind?
I love this film, I find that the story is dark and it holds your attention throughout. The idea of this film is amazing. The fact that someone actually though this up and then thought out all the plot lines and all the extra storylines as well.
I found that Cameron Diaz is amazing in this movie, I'm not really a fan of her work (Other than the sweetest thing) and this film is completely different from anything that she has ever done, her image is completely different. I was really impressed by her performance in this film.
I also found the relationships in this film really interesting. Especially Maxine's relationships, her relationship with Malkovitch, with Lottie as Malkovitch, Craig as Malkovitch and Lottie and Craig in their true forms. Although there is quite a lot going on in this film I never found it confusing at any point.
One thing that I think is interesting about this film is that it manages to be emotional, funny and also makes you think all in one film. To understand this film you really have to watch it as it's really hard to describe in words, I've tried my best and if you like it watch the film!
One can only imagine what inspired Spike Jonze to make Being John Malkovich - but I'm mighty glad he did.
As the other reviews say, there aren't many films you see that are like it, so it's fairly hard to review relatively to anything else.
Looking at it as objectively as possible, however, I count the film as a triumph - the cast are fantastic, with John Cusack (a favourite of mine) and Cameron Diaz doing a great job - and let's not forget to mention the great JM himself - an effortless portrayal in a fairly tricky part.
The pace and direction of the film is top-drawer. There's a really nice balance between the "Alice in Wonderland, Through the Lookinglass" overtones and the real world...making the idea seem almost believable, but comfortingly unreal.
As will become a theme in my reviews...It's not often I like to be made to think by a movie - I have enough of that at work, so when I come home, I like to put something fun on, kick my feet up and switch off...I generally find "thought provoking" to be a disadvantage more than an advantage in a film - but Being John Malkovich is a notable exception - it really asks genuinely interesting questions about the nature of the self, humanity and the world at large...And it asks them in a sensitive, subtle way...
BJM strikes a wonderful balance between being quirky, grounded, arty, light-hearted and pretentious - but without being any to excess...And whilst that may make it seem a little mediocre, the result is anything but.
Randomly applauded for just how wacky and thought-provoking it is, Being John Malkovich is something I just never really had the inclination to watch. However, finally succumbing to its draw, and armed with a beer, I sat myself down and prepared to have thoughts provoked.
It starts off as it means to continue: weirdly! John Cusack plays a puppeteer going for a new job where the ceilings are ridiculously low and the staff are strange. The dialogue is quick and snappy from the get go, and as Cusack's character, Craig Schwartz, explores his new working environment, he curiously comes across a small door that literally leads into the mind of John Malkovich. Thus ensues a really surreal hour and a half where Craig tries to find a way to make money from this discovery.
But it's more complicated than that, and to a certain extent whoever created the ins and outs of the story should be congratulated more than the person who initially came up with the idea. This is because of the twists and turns the film takes. None of it is the sort of thing you can predict, as it's all completely wacky, but as Craig's devious work colleague Maxine (Catherine Keener) and his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) come into the secret, they find even stranger things to imagine. The fact that there could be a budding romance between two women, but only when one of them is 'being' a man (namely poor old John Malkovich) is quite surreal. What is even stranger is when Craig manages to control Malkovich's speech and movements.
All these kinds of quirks and surreal elements of the film add up to what should be an astounding film. However, the strange side of it really doesn't allow for you to relax and enjoy it as a form of entertainment, as you're kind of reeling from the imagination involved here. Malkovich himself is probably the best actor in the film, having to pretend to be John Cusack playing Craig Schwartz but from within his own body! And don't even get me started on when Malkovich actually makes the plunge to go inside his own head. That's just too surreal for words. Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich!
It's almost like a scientific experiment with some really interesting results than an entertaining film, despite the cast trying to entertain as much as they can. Diaz is virtually unrecognisable for the majority of the film, Keener is sufficiently devious and sultry, and Cusack is a convincing neurotic puppeteer who strives to control Malkovich as if he were one of his puppets. I have already said Malkovich himself is brilliant. The remainder of the cast also do a very good job.
I do highly recommend the film. It's targeted as being a comedy, and for the main part it delivers. It's not one of those laugh out loud comedies, but the satirical and surreal nature of it does make you chuckle a bit and appreciate how clever it is. Is it an astoundingly great film? No, but the imagination here is brilliant, and it's a wonderfully conceived and delivered idea. Available from amazon.co.uk for £4.43, Being John Malkovich is well worth the watch. Recommended.
Being John Malkovich came out back in 1999. The film is a dark comedy starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and not surprisingly John Malkovich. The film is directed by Spike Jonze and kind of slimmed under the radar at the time. However it did pick up plenty of awards and was nominated for three Oscars. Since the film was released its really gone on to be something of a cult classic.
The film tells the story of a struggling puppeteer named Craig. He is stuck in a dead end job and has fallen out of love with his wife Maxine. One day at work he meets Lotte, she is everything he wants in a woman, strong, sexual and intelligent. However she is not interested. Then when dropping some files behind a desk, Craig discovers a small door. He does through the door and gets thrown down a passage way that takes him into John Malkovich's head!
After being dumped out an hour later Craig tells Maxine who also goes through the door and 'be's John Malkovich'. Now the pair decide to make a business out of this and offer people the chance to be someone different. Doing this brings the pair closer and Craig becomes obsessed with Maxine and then everything gets complicated.
This is a really unusual film. But having said that I really like it. It something totally different and a really good story. The acting is excellent, I'm a big fan of Cusack and this is Cameron Diaz as you've never seen her before! The film has lots of twist and turns and keeps you guessing.
All though the storyline is very far fetched it really does come across well. You start to believe that this is happening and get involved with the film. There are some funny moments in there too that make me smile.
The film runs for 112 minutes which is probably just about right. There is plenty to enjoy in there and it never drags. I think the length is just about right.
The film is rated as 15. There is quite a bit of strong language and some scenes of a sexual nature that will offend people. This is not a film for children or people who are easily offended.
The DVD itself is quite good, it has a few little extras that are interesting such as trailers and extra scenes. Nothing that would really make me go out and buy the film as I tend to get DVDs for the film itself rather than any extras.
Overall this is a really good film. Its something totally different and really good fun. The acting is top notch, the story entertaining and its filmed in a really classy way. This is a film that many people are still unaware of but its one everyone should give a try. Not everyone will enjoy this but its one you simply must see. So next time your after a film to watch, try being someone else. Try Being John Malkovich!!
Being John Malkovich is one of the oddest concepts for a movie but also at the same time one of the most inventive movies made.
Craig Schwartz played by John Cusack is a rundown scruffy puppeteer who is just about scraping by and making a living from his business. His puppet shows are pretty dark and at times traumatic to children. His plain wife Lotte, played by Cameron Diaz spends what little money they actually have on raising and caring for the multitude of animals living in their small home.
Therefore to earn some extra cash Craig takes up a job as a filing clerk in strange company. This company is located on the 7 1/2 floor of a large Manhattan office building. Just how does an office exist between the 7th and 8th floors of a building anyway? However, it is what Craig discovers hidden behind a filing cabinet that sets things in motion in this movie.
Behind the cabinet is a door, which when Craig crawls through it he finds himself transported into the brain of actor John Malkovich who plays himself. For fifteen minutes he experiences the things Malkovich does until he is forced out and dumped on the side of the freeway.
Craig lets fellow office worker Maxine in on the secret and she convinces him to charge people to try this out for themselves almost lke a fairground ride or attraction!
It is a very strange idea for a film but does work pretty well, not least by the fact that John Malkovich plays himself in the movie and at one point tries to teleport himself into his own bizarre world with amusing consequences. It is a very dark comedy that is pretty interesting if not weird to watch.
I had to watch Being John Malkovich because its written by Charlie Kaufman,who is one of my most favorite writers.His work(Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,Adaptation,Synedoche New York) speaks for itself. Being John Malkovich is directed by Spike Jonze and stars John Cusack,Cameron Diaz,Charlie Sheen and John Malkovich himself!
John Cusack plays puppeter Craig,married to Lotte(Cameron Diaz).Having financial problems,he decides to take up a job where he meets Maxine(Catherine Keener) who intrigues him.One day while working in his office he finds a small hidden door and is rather surprised when the opening takes him iniside John Malkovich's mind for 15minutes.
Things become more interesting when Craig tells Maxine about it and they start a business of taking money from people to make them live as John Malkovich for 15minutes.But things get out of hand when Lotte once goes inside Malkovich when he meets up Maxine,and both Lotte and Maxine realise that they love each other(but Lotte has to be inside Malkovich's body for Maxine to love her!).Craig goes mad and uses Lotte to call Maxine up to meet Malkovich and Craig enters Malkovich's body so that Maxine loves him.
I know the plot sounds a bit weird,but that is actually where Charlie Kaufman comes in.His affection towards blending facts with fiction is apparent in most of his films and this is no exception.He borrows a lot from John Malkovich's life and puts in a big twist by introducing John Cusack's character.The detailing in the script is incredible.There are certainly some flaws in the screenplay and it does to get slightly slack at certain points. Credit must be given to the film-making unit since the subject is complex and there is a thin line between brilliance and insanity.
John Cusack as Craig is fantastic.This is Cusack's finest performance who portrays a very layered character,a character which has been given a lot of thought to.John Malkovich is efficient playing an altered version of himself.His finest moments come when he is possesed by Craig.Cameron Diaz as Lotte fails to impress.Catherine Keener as Maxine is good in parts.
I don't know what general audiences might think of it since it does cross some lines at times,but its a must watch for anyone who likes innovative and different cinema.
Being John Malcovich is a 1999 film directed by Spike Jonze starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener.
Billed as a dramedy (according to wikipedia anyway): a blend of comedy and drama. Even though there was no shortage of drama, for a comedy, it wasn't very funny - I think I only actually laughed aloud once through the whole thing.
The film stars John Cusack as Craig, an out of work puppeteer who finds work at an office where he falls madly in love and discovers a tunnel allowing the entrant to "be" the famous actor John Malkovich (played by himself) for 15 minutes.
The film is certainly original, I'd be a madman to state otherwise. I loved the surrealist features of this film. I was totally glued as I watched Craig begin to tentatively crawl down that tunnel and totally did not see it coming. The portrayal of the Dilbert-esque office was also admirable and made the discovery of the tunnel even more weird.
By far the most frustrating thing about the film was the ending, none of characters got anything near what they deserved. This left me with the uncomfortable after-taste that everything was not as it should be, justice had not been done. If this story had a moral, it would be something along the lines of "being a manipulative b*tch always works out in the end".
I also found it incredibly difficult to empathise with any of the main characters. Craig, although for me the most likable character, was just too pathetic, Maxine was an absolutely intolerable who in turn made me lose any respect for both Craig and Lotte for getting so badly taken in by her (she's not even that attractive, I kept thinking).
I also hope I am not alone in finding it at least a little irritating when celebrities play themselves. It's almost like a smug self-congratulatory pat on the back.
A lot of what is said about this film is about the "amazing" philosophical content and yeah, there was a bit but it's nothing that's going to keep me up at night. If you found this challenging then reading The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten by Julian Baggini will blow your mind into tiny little pieces.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to intellectual movies, I actively encourage them just as everyone sound of mind should do but it is still not the be all end all of a movie. In my opinion, the plot and the characters are far more important. Besides, I'm not here for a philosophy lecture I'm here to be entertained and come out the other end satisfied.
I had recently been watching a lot of movies with John Malcovitch in and had found him a very enjoyable actor watch in a diverse range of roles, Changeling, Burn After Reading and Ripleys Game to name a few. Browsing some of the movies in CEX (please see previous review) I was interested to see this listed for £1.50.
Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a misfit puppeteer who finds himself stuck in a rut, his edgy shows are not accepted by the public and as such he struggles to get any sort of paying work. His wife Lotte (Camerian Diaz), an animal obsessed type who appears to also struggle with life outside of her apaprtment urges Craig to go out and get work.
Craig finds a job as a filer, sorting documents at a bizarre office on the 7 and half floor which can only be reached by using a crowbar on the lift doors between floor seven and eight, this odd floor has three quarter height ceilings with the idea being to save money on 'overheads'.
It is here that Craig meets Maxine, and instantly begins to fall in a strange obsessed sort of love. Maxine (Catherine Keeler) is a sexually dominant female force and quickly has Craig jumping through hoops to impress her as she is effectively the polar opposite of his wife. The plot thickens however when Craig drops a file behind a cabinet one day and when retrieving it finds a portal, this portal eventually turns out to lead into John Malcovitch.
Let me explain that - John Malcovitch will be doing whatever it is that he is doing at the time, but by entering the tunnel you can watch what he does from his own eyes for 15 minutes before being thrown out onto the New Jersey Turnpike.
This film is beautifully weird, imagine a remake of Alice in Wonderland, from the very start to the very end I was sat there with a sort of 'what the hell is going on?!' type of face. Everything from when it turns out that the office isn't the right height to when Malcovitch goes through the tunnel and enters his own alter-ego.
Well, a hell of a cast, I have become quite a large fan of John Malcovitch overnight really although always having had respect for the films that he makes, I think this was a wonderful performance as he does end up playing himself numerous times with different directives (watch the film to understand what I am truly trying to say with that comment). I also think it was a very brave role to take as it puts him out there as an actor leaving his personal life on display.
John Cusack, technically the lead character in this movie does a great job once again, I have always liked Cusack as an actor even if I haven't liked all of the movies he has been in, High Fidelity for instance, poor adaptation of the book but Cusack comes across well in it. I would say that this role falls out of his normal comfort zone as he plays this socially challenged failure without much going for him at all but he does pull it off and pull it off well.
I really enjoyed this movie, it is truly different for that of the normal mainstream and I glad I took a chance on it. It won't appeal to everyone though, if you don't like quirky films or situations that don't necessarily make complete sense then I would perhaps give this a miss.
It also does have adult themes and nudity, although pretty soft, not the kind of film you would play to a kid but I think a 15 guidance is fair.
I will recommend this film to anyone that will listen to me, and it will make me go out and buy some of the other work which perhaps isn't quite as famous by Malcovitch, all in all I think it is a wonderfully different film that most people would enjoy for both amusement and sheer weirdness.
IMDB users give it a rating of 7.9/10 from 105,999 votes.
You can also buy this new from amazon on DVD for £4.98
Directed By: Spike Jonze
Written By: Charlie Kauffman
Released in: 1999
Synopsis - This is a hard film to sum-up in a few words so I apologise for the fact that this synopsis rambles on for so long. If you don't want to know what happens in the film, obviously don't read this section. Here goes...
The film is based around the lives of Craig Schwartz and Lotte, a not so happily married couple living in New York. Surrounded by their enormous cast of pets, the couple lead a dull, passionless existence.
Craig Schwartz is an exceptional pupetteer who struggles to find work despite his considerable talent. Depressed and penniless, Schwartz responds to an ad for a job as a filing clerk. The firm's offices are located on the 7 ½ floor of the building and the ceilings inside are only 5 ft high, meaning that everyone has to stoop while they walk. Along with the hearing impaired receptionist who is convinced that everyone else has a speech impediment, this gives the film a farcical but enjoyable feel. The recurring joke being that the low ceilings mean that the company has 'low overheads' and can therefore be more competitive.
At the company induction Schwarz meets Maxine, a classic Femme Fatale and immediately falls in love with her. Maxine is as ruthless as she is beautiful and does not reciprocate Schwarz's romantic desires.
One day while filing, Schwarz discovers a tiny door which conceals a portal into the mind of the famous actor John Malkovich. Once through the portal, Schwarz is transported inside the mind of the actor and can experience everything Malkovich experiences. This phenomenon lasts for 15 minutes after which time, Schwarz is spat back into reality via an exit portal located on the New Jersey Turnpike.
In an attempt to impress Maxine, Schwarz shares his discovery with her. Ever, the opportunist Maxine convinces Schwarz to use the portal to get rich by charging customers $200 for the chance to 'be' John Malkovich for 15 minutes.
Schwarz also shares his discovery with his wife, Lotte, who insists on taking the trip herself.
While this is happening, Maxine obtains Malkovich's telephone number and calls him, inviting him to dinner. Malkovich receives this call while Lotte is inside his head and she is able to exert some kind of influence over him. As a result of her influence he agrees to the rendez-vous with Maxine and the 2 become lovers.
After she is ejected from Malkovich's subconscious Lotte tells Schwarz that she is a transsexual and wants to become a man. She is also in love with Maxine.
At a dinner party both Schwarz and Lotte make sexual advances towards Maxine. Maxine again rejects Schwarz but admits to being 'smittened' with Lotte, but only when she is in Malkovich's body. Maxine reveals that she has felt Lotte's eyes 'peering out' at her during her and John's love making.
Schwarz is clearly devastated as his wife and the woman he loves form this strange union and develop a relationship. As time goes by, Schwarz and Maxine continue to sell tickets to the 'John Malkovich experience'. Schwarz continues taking the ride himself and learns that he can not only control Malkovich but that he can stay inside his head for longer and longer as he becomes the dominant personality in Malkovich's psyche. Schwarz is becoming Malkovich's pupetteer.
Despite this achievement, Schwarz is still unable to impress Maxine in the real world, and her relationship with Lotte / John continues to flourish.
Schwarz realises that his only way to Maxine is through John / Lotte and devises a plan. He keeps Lotte locked in a cage, along with their pet chimpanzee while he spends more and more time in the body of John Malkovich. Maxine soon discovers that this is the case but is impressed by Schwarz's ability to control Malkovich. Maxine continues her affair with Malkovich, but this time while Schwarz is controlling him. Together they decide that Schwarz should stay in the body of John Malkovich indefinitely, usurping his identity completely.
Schwarz is able to live out his fantasies, not only by being with Maxine, but also by using Malkovich's fame to become a world famous puppeteer. There follows a short period of euphoria for Schwarz as he lives his dream as a successful man. However, there will be one final twist in this bizarre narrative that will prove to be his downfall.
In Schwartz's absence, Lotte manages to escape the cage and seeks out Schwarz 's boss to try and find the truth about the portal. She finds out that the portal is a device that allows souls to live forever, by jumping from one host, or 'vessel' body, to the next. Lotte learns that Schwarz's Boss is actually 105 years old and along with a collection of friends needs to jump into Malkovich's body before his own body expires. This needs to happen before Malkovich's 44th birthday, when the destination for the portal will change to the next 'vessel' body.
At this point, the narrative skips forward eight months to reveal a heavily pregnant Maxine has been kidnapped and held to ransom by Schwarz's boss. Schwarz's Boss threatens to kill her if Schwarz does not vacate Malkovich's body and allow him, and his aging friends, to take his place inside the vessel body. Schwarz agonises over this decision but eventually acquiesces to their demands out of love for Maxine.
In the final cruel twist of the plot, it emerges that Maxine fell pregnant while Lotte was inside John's body and she therefore believes Lotte, not Schwarz, to be the child's biological parent. As Schwarz is ejected back into reality he learns that Maxine has left him to be with Lotte and his life is ruined.
The film ends with Schwarz's boss and his aging friends taking up residence in John Malkovich's vessel body, enabling them to live for another generation.
Lotte and Maxine raise their child together and the closing scene shows them playing together by a swimming pool. Unbeknownst to the parents, Schwarz has taken one final ride on the portal, and now inhabits the subconscious of the next vessel body, Maxine and Lotte's 8 year old daughter.
Craig Schwartz - John Cusack
Lotte Schwartz - Cameron Diaz
Maxine Lund - Catherine Keener
John Malkovich - John Malkovich
Dr Lester -- Orson Bean
Charlie Sheen -- Charlie Sheen
Sean Penn -- Sean Penn
Brad Pitt -- Brad Pitt
In my opinion the film is fantastically cast. John Cusack's portrayal of the broken and distraught puppeteer, Craig Schwartz is compelling and touching.
The normally dazzling Cameron Diaz is so convincing as the dowdy, unattractive and disturbed Lotte that it took me about 30 minutes to realise that it was Diaz playing the role. Both Diaz and Cusack portray the pain and suffering of a passionless marriage in an understated but arresting manner.
Catherine Keener oozes sexuality and danger as she plays the role of Maxine, the Femme Fatale, brilliantly.
While I have previously found Malkovich to be an immense talent (especially in Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'), I feel that he was overshadowed somewhat by his co-star's in this movie. Maybe it is just because his name is in the title of the movie that I expected him to play a more prominent role. Still Malkovich turns in a good performance, though not his most memorable.
There are Cameo performances from Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn and Brad Pitt, all of whom play themselves as colleagues and friends of Malkovich.
Themes and criticism
The film raises a lot of interesting metaphysical questions, chief amongst which is "What is the human soul / identity".
It is said that by the age of 10 the human body has replaced every single cell in its make-up and continues to do so on an approximate 10 year cycle. This means that by the age of 10 we have discarded every cell that we were born with, yet we still think of ourselves as 'the same person'.
This would suggest that the soul does not reside in the cells of the body, does not manifest itself in any physical form. The soul is illusive and transient but at the same time fundamental to who we are. For me, this was the key question dealt with in the film.
In the film the body is presented as the vehicle and the soul as the driver behind the wheel, exerting its unique influence over the body.In 'Being John Malkovich' many souls invade Malkovich's body and become almost addicted to the process. At the end of the film Malkovich's body is besieged by an influx of roughly 20 souls, all of whom alter and manipulate his identity. This transformation in Malkovich's character is a metaphor for the way the human body is subjected to the influence of often contradictory emotions. The film raises the question of multiple personalities and multiple identities existing within one person. Love, hate, desire, compassion and envy are all displayed during the movie and exert a vice like grip and influence over the host body. This in turn begs the question: is there such a thing as the human soul or are we merely an unbroken series of emotional responses held together by the adhesive qualities of memory?
Identity is also key to the realisation of the success of the individual. Lotte is only able to seduce Maxine initially while she inhabits the body of Malkovich. Schwarz is only able to achieve commercial success as a puppeteer while dressed in Malkovich's skin, despite the fact that the skills, the routines and the fines are all his. Both Man and Lotte need the affable and attractive façade of the host body (Malkovich) to realise their full individual potential.
This film was actually very enjoyable, perhaps more so than I was expecting. Whenever a lot of hype surrounds a film it is so often a let down. Not so with this movie, which entertains from the word go. The quirky nature of the film holds the viewers interest while the plot develops.
I am aware that I have rambled on for nearly 2,000 words without reaching any hard and fast conclusions about the film. In many ways, the film is too complex to be reduced to a brief synopsis or analysis. It raises lots of interesting questions: what is love; what is the human soul and where does it reside? It raises these questions without forcing any answers on the viewer. Somehow its complex themes and motifs do not detract from the watchability of the film.
The high point for me is John Cusack's portrayal of Craig Schwartz, which I thought was touching and tragic. A very close second place goes to Catherine Keener, for her intoxicatingly sensual portrayal of Maxine.
All in all this is a very entertaining and interesting film which is definitely worth a watch. It's quirky individuality works well with some really great performances from its star studded cast.
Craig Schwartz is a puppeteer but as he is struggling for work his wife suggests that he looks for other work. He manages to get himself a job as a speed filer but it is in a strange place on the 7 ½ floor of a building. Craig soon discovers that the half floor is so that the company can keep overheads down! It is at work that he strikes up a friendship with Maxine and he for some reason is instantly attracted to her.
Craig is settling in at work and soon makes a startling discover. He finds a small door which is a portal into the mind of John Malkovich and allows him to experience his life for just 15 minutes before being thrown out. He talks to Maxine about it and they think this would be a brilliant money maker. Soon Craig is telling his wife and she too wants to experience this but things don't turn out as expected as she fells complete when she is a man and decides that she is actually trapped in the wrong body.
Soon Craig and Maxine are making a lot of money by selling the time in the portal to customers but how long can this continue for before John Malkovich realises what is happening and just how come the portal is there? Will Craig be able to sort his wife's head out and convince her that she does not want to be a man?
Well I know the plot sounds kind of strange but believe me the film is in fact completely strange and confusing. There is slightly more to the plot which I have not gone into as I don't want to give too much away for anyone who has not seen this film.
I personally found that the acting was probably the best part of the film. John Cusack played the role of Craig and I think he did a great job of playing a strange man who had no idea where his life was going and his obsession with puppets and performing was handled in a great way. He did bring an air of mystery to his character and I think we were not getting the whole picture from him. He worked well with Cameron Diaz who played the role of his wife and they had a good on screen presence despite their relationship being strained. Cameron Diaz was a crazy character who was obsessed with her animals. The marital home was full of them and she was trying to sort the psychiatric problems with her monkey out. I did find the addition fop the animals was slightly out of place and did not fit in with the film but at least it gave some indication as to the metal state of Craig and his wife.
The role of Maxine was a confusing one, not just for the viewer but for the actress who played her as she had no idea as to what she wanted in her love life and at times I found it a little disturbing to watch. There were a lot of supporting actors in the film and I think they did manage to bring a little depth to the story but not much at all.
The main man of the film had to be John Malkovich who played himself and I think he did a good job but for me the film was one big ego trip. I mean who would really want to spend 15 minutes in his mind and live his life, for me there are much better people I would want this to happen with. He did a good job with his character and at times was quite likable but for me I found it was quite a strange concept and big ego trip for the man.
The film was made in 1999 so is still quite new and so there was not much effort needed with the sets or the costumes and I found them to be all in keeping with the film and the year of production. The music which was used throughout the film was nothing special and none of the tracks were at all memorable. They did help with the setting of the scenes and the emotions needed but so much more could have been done with it.
The DVD which we have does have some bonus features which include:-
American Art and Culture Presents: John Malkovich, Dance of Despair and Disillusionment, Spike Jonze Interview,7 ½ Floor Orientation,4 TV Spots, Spike's Photo Album, Theatrical Trailer, Cast and Filmmakers Notes
I was so unimpressed with the film that I did not spend any more time watching these so cannot make comment on them.
The running time of this film is 1 hour and 48minutes and I personally found this was quite long enough and thought it could have perhaps been shortened and still not have lost anything. The certificate is a 15 and I do agree with this as there is some bad language and sex involved. We bought this DVD quite some time ago for around the £4 mark and I am so glad I did not waste any more money on it.
Overall I am not going to recommend this film as the storyline is very far fetched and the acting is not very good and personally it seemed one big ego trip for Mr John Malkovich. I would advise you spend you time on other films.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Being John Malkovich is a stellar cult film that is written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze, two masters who became famous with this and then were allowed to make the Oscar darling Adaptation. It also features a bunch of knockout performances and is without a doubt one of the strangest, most intelligent and imaginative films of the 1990s.
The film's protagonist (despite the title which would suggest otherwise) is Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), an unemployed and washed up puppeteer who is married to the irritating Lotte (Cameron Diaz). He gets a new job as a file clerk at a new company, where the floor is between two other floors, and here he meets Maxine (Catherine Keener), who he falls head over heels for. He comes to notice that behind one of the file cabinets leads a portal into the brain of John Horatio Malkovich (John Gavin Malkovich). They then decide to sell tickets to it, and make it quite a profitable venture.
The film has a very twisted but brilliant sense of humour - people begin to use Malkovich as a means of bettering themselves and trying things that they themselves never had the courage to do, such as transgenderism and gay sex. It also creates a very strange love triangle as a result, where people's egos grow far bigger than any Hollywood star, with dangerous consequences.
One can't doubt the originality of this film (nor the fact that there were probably several illicit substances involved in its creation), and a near-unrecgonisable John Cusack shines through and through as the star of the show. Malkovich is hilarious, and is a good sport in being the centerpiece against his initial protestations. This isn't going to please the mainstream, but it gloriously goes against the grain and is one of the most unique and bewildering films of the 1990s.
Review of "Being John Malkovich" , DVD format.
Production Year: 1999. Genre- Comedy . Classification: 15 years and over ASIN B00004U8OC .Run time 112 minutes.
Being John Malkovich is from Universal Studios, a modern comedy with a sci-fi/fantasy twist.
The DVD I am reviewing is a one disc standard edition, with a few special features such as theatrical trailers, cast interviews and special effects information. I have to admit that I do not generally watch special features or bonus material on DVDs as I do not find it adds to my enjoyment as a rule.
Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, W. Earl Brown, John Malkovich, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Charlie Sheen
Director: Spike Jonze
Craig Schwartz, played by John Cusack, is a struggling street entertainer, a puppeteer to be precise. Craig makes the most lifelike puppets imaginable and his mastery of the art of puppetry is remarkable. Craig has very precise ideas of what his puppet shows should consist of and he enacts scenes from classical literature with his models. Whilst these are technically precise and absolutely outstandingly produced, they are not popular. People do not wish to watch Tristan and Isolde on street corners, consequently, Craig's career is going nowhere-fast. Craig is a geeky, oddball sort of man, he takes a great pride in his puppets, but has little interest in anything else.
Craig is a married man, his wife, Lotte, is played by Cameron Diaz. Lotte is obsessed with animals, the couple are childless and share their home with a wide assortment of pets including a tame chimpanzee.
Lotte wants a baby and she wants Craig to get a job. Craig wants to stay in bed all day. Craig sees a job as a filing clerk advertised and applies for the post. When he arrives in the office block where the company is based, he is non plussed to find his interview is to take place on floor 7 ½. Floor 7 ½ is a low ceilinged floor between floors 7 and 8. All staff have to bend almost double in order to get around and the wackiness of the situation appeals to Craig. He gets the job and on his very first day meets a colleague, Maxine played by Catherine Keener, who captivates him. Maxine has no interest at all in Craig and makes this very plain.
After he has been working for a short while, Craig finds a strange door behind a filing cabinet. He opens the door and a tunnel is revealed. Craig crawls into the tunnel and suddenly finds himself in a very odd place indeed. He is inside the head of actor John Malkovich. For fifteen minutes, Craig is John Malkovich.
After fifteen minutes of being John Malkovich, Craig finds himself dumped beside the road in New Jersey. The experience is so amazing that Craig confides in Maxine, she also takes a trip through the tunnel and becomes Johns Malkovich. Between them, Maxine and Craig then cook up a plan to send others into the tunnel and charge them $200 to be John Malkovich for fifteen minutes.
Lotte finds out about the tunnel and demands a trip in John Malkovich's head. From this event onwards,the plot takes the viewer through some very amusing twists and turns.
John Malkovich is played by himself and he also becomes involved in the story, he is horrified when he realises that strangers are invading his head. He too takes a trip through the tunnel and into his own head.
More I will not reveal for fear of spoiling the movie for others.
==Cost and Availability==
My copy cost just £2 from my local Tesco store. The DVD is stocked on various websites such as www.amazon.co.uk for £2.50 new and from 84p used.
==My Thoughts and Conclusion==
This is in my opinion, a very amusing, modern comedy. The plot is fresh and intriguing, the characters are believable and well cast. It is a touch of genius to have John Malkovich enter his own head and the result of this is hilarious. "Being John Malkovich" is a comedy with a difference, it works, it is entertaining and well acted.
I recommend this DVD to others.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle906 September 2009
N.B. My reviews may be found on other review sites under the same user name, brittle1906.
"This film is a one of a kind"
Those 8 words really do describe this film. There is nothing else like it out there and if there is there is no way it could possibly as entertaining as "Being John Malkovich" is.
As I was watching this film I must of been sat there thinking to myself every 10 minutes, "This is the strangest film I have ever seen" BUT in a good way. It just kept me watching. Not once did I feel the need to leave the room or pause the film to go do something else. It just kept me watching from start to finish.
The plot has to be one of the most original plots in the past 20 or so years. It would spoil the film if i were to describe the plot to you in depth so in brief the film goes like this:
"A puppeteer discovers a door in his office that allows him to enter the mind and life of John Malkovich for 15 minutes. The puppeteer then tries to turn the portal into a small business with his co-worker"
I think the cast of the film also adds to entertainment of the film. When you think of some of the films that the likes of John Cusack and Cameron Diaz have been in, not to mention John Malkovich himself, it makes you wonder what they are doing in such a bizarre film!
As strange as the film is, it is not confusing. The plot is well thought out and is very comprehendible if you follow the story. It just makes you think after you have watched it "What have I just been watching? But why did I like it so much?"
I do feel however that this film may be one of those that isn't "YOUR" cup of tea if you know what I mean. Some may love it and some may hate it (a bit like Marmite) but you have to at least give this film a chance.
I must say though that it is not one of those films you have to make time for to watch. In other words it won't compete with the blockbusters at the cinema or the newest DVD but it is a MUST WATCH when you get the time.
While too many films suffer the fate of creative bankruptcy, Being John Malkovich is a refreshing study in contrast, so bracingly original that you'll want to send director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman a thank-you note for restoring your faith in the enchantment of film. Even if it ultimately serves little purpose beyond the thrill of comedic invention, this demented romance is gloriously entertaining, spilling over with ideas that tickle the brain and even touch the heart. That's to be expected in a movie that dares to ponder the existential dilemma of a forlorn puppeteer (John Cusack) who discovers a metaphysical portal into the brain of actor John Malkovich.The puppeteer takes a job working as a file clerk on the seventh-and-a-half floor of a Manhattan office building; this idea alone might serve as the comedic basis for an entire film, but Jonze and Kaufman are just getting started. Add a devious co-worker (Catherine Keener), Cusack's dowdy wife (a barely recognisable Cameron Diaz), and a business scheme to capitalise on the thrill of being John Malkovich, and you've got a movie that just gets crazier as it plays by its own outrageous rules. Malkovich himself is the film's pièce de résistance, playing on his own persona with obvious delight and--when he enters his own brain via the portal--appearing with multiple versions of himself in a tour-de-force use of digital trickery. Does it add up to much? Not really. But for 112 liberating minutes, Being John Malkovich is a wild place to visit. --Jeff Shannon