Being John Malkovich (1999)

“It’s my HEAD, Schwartz, it’s MY HEAD!”

Justin’s Rating: whadda fuddy muddik

Justin’s Review: It’s incredibly difficult to design a review for this movie. A lot of reviews you can read on Being John Malkovich will either give away important plot points (and thus trivialize them) or become so enthusiastic about the film that they choke on their own spittle and suffer from “Enamored Critics Disease” (a slew of critics all liking the same film tend to scare the rest of the public away). To be honest with you, I’m not exactly sure how universal this movie is. Will everyone like it? No, probably not. Will some people become too confused over the whole plot and look to their monosyllabic heroes for relief? Yes, of course. Is it even a *gasp* art flick? There is that danger, sure. But about the best advice I can give you is to forgo reading all other reviews (even this one) until you just take the time to rent BJM and see it for yourself. You may hate it, but then again, you may have just discovered for yourself one of the most striking, original, and fascinating movies of all time.

Without giving away all of the quirks and gimmicks that make up this film, let me say that it is more or less a dark and scary love triangle between Craig (John Cusack), Lotte (Cameron Diaz), and Maxine (Catherine Keener) played out inside of the head of one very confused John Malkovich. John’s a frustrated puppeteer who puts on some pretty nifty puppet shows (I’ve never really looked seriously at puppets before, but the skill that is performed here is well-done) and takes a filing job at a strange little company. Lotte is his wife, who’s pent-up repression of… something… is driving her to find a different life. Maxine’s just there to exploit everyone, including one lonely actor by the name of John Malkovich. There’s a lot of unrequited love going on, and also a continuing motif of wanting to be someone else or live someone else’s life.

The best thing I can say about Being John Malkovich is that it really never stops surprising you, right till the end. It’s a bizarre fantasy story set in a world somewhat like ours and exactly like ours and nothing like ours (that makes sense, I know). I always love a movie that sends me packing with all sorts of thinking processes going on in my brain for days to follow, and although BJM explains a bit of it’s craziness, it never tries so hard as to lay out every realistic tack and nail. It’s so different that I can’t compare this movie to anything else that’s been made. For one thing, both Cusack and Diaz look so frumpy that they’re almost undesirable. Another thing is there is no hero, no one character to root for exactly. It’s an expansive moral tale with no normal people, such as they supposedly are.

Just stay out of my head, okay?

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