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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Being John Malkovich
Directed by Spike Jonze
USA Films 10/99 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - language, sexual situations

Anyone with a yen for an out-of-the-box entertainment will love this around-the-bend movie set in New York City. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a gifted puppeteer whose street performances of the twelfth century drama of Abelard and Heloise are ignored by passersby. The sizzle has gone out of his marriage to Lotte (Cameron Diaz), a pet store employee who lavishes all of her emotions on a sick chimp and the other animals in their cramped apartment.

Schwartz's life turns around when he takes a job as a file clerk for a firm located on the 7 1/2th floor of an office building. The wacky receptionist (Mary Kay Place) misunderstands everything he says, and the boss (Orson Bean) is a long-lived eccentric with strange tastes. One day Schwartz discovers a hidden passageway behind a large filing cabinet. He crawls through and finds himself magically inside actor John Malkovich's brain. For 15 minutes he inhabits another world before he is unceremoniously dumped on the New Jersey Turnpike. After Maxine (Catherine Keener), a co-worker, rebuffs his declaration of love for her, he teams up with her in an after-hours enterprise of selling access to the celebrity's psyche for $200 a pop.

Only trouble is that once Lotte takes the journey, she becomes addicted. Her fondest moments are residing in Malkovich when he's seducing Maxine. The jealous Schwartz finds a way of using this transportation for his own glory and sexual satisfaction.

Director Spike Jonze does a fine job orchestrating this Alice-in-Wonderland extravaganza. Screenplay writer Charlie Kaufman has come up with wildly inventive commentary on sexual politics, celebrity worship, privacy, and the thirst for immortality. At the heart of the film is an exploration of the yearning we all have to be someone else occasionally. None of this would have worked without the relaxed performance by John Malkovich.

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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