Monday, May 13, 2013

942. Being John Malkovich (1999)

Running Time: 113 minutes
Directed By: Spike Jonze
Written By: Charlie Kaufman
Main Cast: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Orson Bean
Click here to view the trailer


Another movie that I only needed to pull off my DVD shelf in order to watch, "Being John Malkovich" was an old favorite of mine, that I saw sometime near it's video release. Back then I loved it - thinking it innovative, clever, unique and original. Today...not so much.

Craig Schwartz (Cusack) is a struggling puppeteer, living with his wife Lotte (Diaz) and her many exotic, animal friends (including an iguana, a parrot and a chimp named Elijah) in New York. When his Craig's career as a puppeteer shows serious signs of turmoil, Lotte suggests that Craig get a day job, at least until the world is ready for Craig's "art". Craig reluctantly takes her advice and lands a job at the Mertin-Flemmer building, on the 7 1/2 floor, for LesterCorp, as a filing clerk. Here, Craig meets and begins to fall in love (or lust) with Maxine (Keener), a sexy co-worker who does not feel the same way about Craig. In fact, Maxine is almost disgusted by Craig, shooting him down at every turn. One night, while finishing up work at the office, Craig drops a file behind the filing cabinet. When he movies the cabinet, Craig finds a secret passageway and being just as curious as the next guy, decides to crawl inside and see what's what. What Craig finds is a portal that leads him directly into the head of acclaimed film star John Malkovich (playing himself). The "ride", however, only lasts for fifteen minutes before Craig is spit out on the side of the New Jersey turnpike. When he shares his discovery with Maxine, she sees it as an opportunity to make a little cash on the side and puts an ad in the paper - "Ever want to be someone else? Now you can!". Things get even more complicated when Maxine meets John Malkovich (face to face) and begins a romantic relationship with him and EVEN MORE complicated when Lotte goes through the portal and decides that she's a man trapped in a woman's body and forms a romantic attachment to Maxine. Must be seen to be believed.


YES! It IS a must see, I'll give THE BOOK that. It's a must see because you can't just hear about this movie without having to see it & experience it for yourself and form your own opinions. Some will hate it with a passion, some will love it and then there's me, who, after today's viewing, sees the good and the bad. The good is the concept itself, which comes from the mind of Charlie Kaufman and reminds me of what a brilliant screenwriter he is, indeed. It also makes me wonder what's going on in that man's head to churn out a story the likes of "Being John Malkovich", not to mention "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (which should've been included in THE BOOK, as well) and "Adaptation" (which used to be included in THE BOOK and upon my last viewing, I liked it a lot). The story examines several different ideas, including a man who is so lonely, pathetic and uncomfortable in his own skin, that when he finds a portal into another man's skin, he ultimately never wants to leave. Also, a woman (Lotte) who questions her own sexuality and another woman (Maxine) who is caught in the middle. It's a film that definitely has it's moments and has some of the most unique storytelling you'll ever see. Even the whole spiel about the 7 1/2 floor, is, in it's own way, brilliant. The ending is also odd (in a good way) with Mr. Lester's revelation that he's been waiting until Malkovich was ripe, before he intends to enter him permanently and continue to live inside him until the next vessel (whomever that may be) becomes of ripe age, at which point he'll repeat the process and ultimately be immortal. Is there a plot hole at the end though? If Mr. Lester can take as many of his elder friends as he wants inside Malkovich, as well as Lotte, then why does Craig have to exit for him to be able to enter? Didn't really understand that...

The bad is that the film, this time around anyway, was just so unique that, at times, it came off as utter silliness. Sure it's unique and original and all that jazz, but why do I care about these people. Let's face it the characters are one-dimensional and aren't acting in a natural manner, therefore I never formed any emotional attachment to any of them. Sure, you can argue that this is an unnatural film, therefore the characters need to be acting in an unnatural manner, but it didn't work for me, at times. Also, what about the Malkovich character? Here's this innocent guy (who just happens to be a celebrity) who, through no fault of his own, has become part of this portal that leads people into his psyche. In the end, the Malkovich character is really the one we should be feeling sorry for, because for all intents and purposes, he was killed, in order for Lester and his buddies to enter into and become him. Then there's the whole lesbian relationship between Lotte and Maxine and throughout the entire movie Maxine just came off as a bitch, who was incapable of forming any real emotional relationships, who was always looking out for her own best interests. And then you've got Craig, who is trapped inside their daughter's head, seemingly forever, like a Lotte and Maxine know he's in there? And what did Craig ever do wrong to be the one who, in the end, is the victim of imprisonment? Is he punished for falling in love with Maxine? This is a poor guy, who was basically bullied by her, who's only misfortune was falling for her. Okay, okay I'm ranting and raving and it's getting a little out of hand, so I better just end this.

RATING: 6.5/10  Good, but a lot less good than the last time I watched it. Perhaps it needs yet another viewing, I don't know.


May 13, 2013  11:33pm

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