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copyright ©1999-2000

flick pick | Being John Malkovich 1999
Directed by:
Spike Jonze

John Cusack, Catherine Keener, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
, new release
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:
darkly comic, fabulous, hip

Plot synopsis Being John Malkovich is an oddball fantasy about an unsuccessful puppeteer named Craig Schwartz. Urged by his wife to find something to tide himself over until he can support himself performing his non-child-friendly (but beautiful) puppet shows, Craig begins work as a filing clerk in a strange office on a bizarrely-low-ceilinged 7-1/2th floor. One day, he stumbles across a small hidden door. The door reveals a tunnel that allows him, miraculously and inexplicably, to pop into John Malkovich’s head! He sees what Malkovich sees, feels what Malkovich feels, hears what Malkovich hears … until fifteen minutes later, he's ejected into a ditch by the side of the New Jersey turnpike. Eager to impress the strikingly elegant Maxine, a co-worker who has, until now, shown utter disdain towards him, Craig tells her about his discovery. Maxine quickly sees this as a golden opportunity: they’ll charge $200 for 15 minute jaunts in John Malkovich's head (this in spite of the fact that neither Maxine nor Craig is entirely certain of who Malkovich is, beyond the fact that he’s a somewhat famous actor.)

Review The plot twists and quasi-philosophical questions that arise from this piece of inspired insanity make the head spin, trying to pull it all together in some semblance of sense. Better to just go with it … there’s a stream-of- consciousness, surreal quality to the best sequences (such as when the real Malkovich, having discovered to his horror that people are paying to enter the tunnel to his head, jumps into the portal himself, and ends up trapped in a nightmarish world where everyone looks like him!) that's best served by refusing to over-analyze. It’s terrific to see all the actors playing against-type so successfully. Craig is completely devoid of the usual Cusack charm (he degenerates from a sad loser to a complete loony); Keener, whose non-traditional beauty generally causes her to get stuck in character roles, is completely convincing as the object of everyone’s desire; and a well-disguised Diaz emerges as a frumpily sympathetic character. Bravest performance of all, though, belongs to John Malkovich, who not only does a brilliant job of acting like himself possessed by each of the film’s other characters, but throws himself into a role that unflatteringly paints the Malkovich character as vain, egotistical and oversexed. Deliciously demented and thoroughly original, Being John Malkovich will leave you dizzily impressed and exceedingly well-entertained. o

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