BEING JOHN MALKOVICH
Even with a great script and insightful direction, though, a film must
have actors that can handle the content. John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine
Keener, and, of course, Malkovich, are all absolutely excellent, following
Jonze's clever angle of giving incredible realism to a surreal story. The
result is a film like Terry Gilliam's Brazil or David Cronenberg's
Naked Lunch. Incomprehensible, and therefore riveting.
Although the plot almost defies intelligent explanation, it involves
an out-of-work puppeteer named Craig Schwartz (Cusack) who discovers a tiny
door at his workplace. When he crawls into the tunnel leading from the door,
he soon discovers that he is looking at the world from inside the head of
you guessed it actor John Malkovich. When he lets his wife
Lotte (Diaz) try it, she feels so at one with Malkovich that she thinks
she was meant to be a man. Craig's co-worker, Maxine (Keener) is not interested
in trying it, but she takes out an ad, selling 15 minutes of Malkovich to
anyone interested in "being someone else," for a tidy sum of $200
each. She also calls Malkovich and, with Lotte and/or Craig inside his brain,
seduces him. Soon they have an eerily sexy love triangle with the confused
actor in the middle.
Just when you think this movie can't get any stranger, it does. And then
it does again. In a bizarre twist, the title actor puts forth a performance
as himself, with other characters inside him. It is a testament to his confidence
(or maybe it's just weird) that Malkovich allows himself to be portrayed
in this way, being puppeteered by others, as if he lacks the control of
his own destiny. It's not exactly a flattering part; I can just imagine
his reaction when Jonze called him about the role. "You want me to
do what, now?"
Cameron Diaz is incredible in this movie; you won't recognize her (in
part because her trademark blonde hair is replaced by a shaggy brown wig).
Cusack's part is unlike any other I've seen him in, and he too is superb.
His pathetic portrayal of Craig is at once longing and loving and bursting
with frustration. Keener is so sexy, and yet so full of hostility and biting
cynicism. She represents everything about women that is painfully desirable
and yet inaccessible to men. And Malkovich, well his part is so surreal,
and he plays it with such honesty, it makes us uncomfortable to watch. And
yet we are compelled. The cast is rounded out by Orson Bean and Mary Kay
Place, and others, also excellent in some really strange supporting roles.
I highly recommend being John Malkovich. And if you can't do it, at least see the film. *****
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