BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. 1999. DIRECTED BY SPIKE JONZE. PRODUCED BY MICHAEL STIPE. STARRING JOHN MALKOVICH, JOHN CUSACK, CAMERON DIAZ, CATHERINE KEENER, MARY KAY PLACE, ORSON BEAN, CHARLIE SHEEN AND SEAN PENN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This has got to be the craziest movie I’ve seen in a while, maybe even ever. John Cusack plays Craig Schwartz, a sort of greasy loser who has one outstanding talent. He’s a brilliant puppeteer, of all things. Brilliant but misunderstood, as great artists frequently are. The public simply don’t get his oeuvres. For this reason, I was inclined to take his side, until he revealed his slimy true colours, that is.
Craig is married to Lotte, played by a badly-dressed Cameron Diaz with absolutely terrible frizzy reddish hair. Even her jizz-styled quiff from THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY is better than the mop she’s forced to sport in this film. Yes, I know I said jizz, hee-hee. I’m a big girl now and I can say grown-up words. Don’t tell my mom, though. Anyway, Lotte fills her life- and their crummy apartment- with animals because Craig won’t let her have what she really wants. A baby. The big meanie.
Craig neglects Lotte first in favour of his puppeteering, then for a woman called Maxine whom he meets in his new job. Forced by financial constraints to take a filing job in a strange little company with extremely low ‘overheads’ (watch the movie if you want to know what that means!), he immediately becomes obsessed with the bright, brittle Maxine, a glamorous but hard-bitten New Yorker. He does everything in his power – that’s not a whole lot, to be honest- to get her into bed. She’s not having a bar of him, as they say, until he makes a rather interesting discovery one day in work…
What exactly has Craig discovered? Only a mysterious portal into the mind of famous actor John Malkovich, that’s what. Anyone who crawls through the narrow passage behind the wall in Craig’s office gets sucked into John Malkovich’s brain and sees life through the actor’s eyes for fifteen minutes before being pushed out into a ditch off the New Jersey turnpike. You think that sounds crazy? Well, of course it is. It’s completely and utterly bizarre. But don’t blame me. I didn’t come up with the idea personally, haha.
Craig and Maxine go into business together, charging people $200 a pop for fifteen minutes inside John Malkovich’s head. When Lotte gets involved, however, things become complicated. A lot of stuff starts to happen. She falls head-over-heels in love/lust with Maxine, who somewhat reciprocates. When Lotte has a go at Being John Malkovich, she has the best time of her whole life and decides that she wants to be a man and have gender reassignment surgery tout de suite. It’s all a bit unexpected. Not least of all to Craig…
When the devious Maxine sets out to meet JM in person and gets him to fall in love with her so that she can manipulate him for her own ends, things get even messier. She has wild sex with Malkovich while Lotte is in his brain, looking out through his eyes. The two women enjoy themselves thoroughly, knowing that they’re really having sex with each other. It’s incredibly weird.
Then Craig and Maxine, a couple now, take over JM’s body and mind completely, leaving poor Lotte out in the cold with no-one to turn to but Craig’s eccentric, sex-crazed old boss, Dr. Lester, who has his own mad agenda. There follows a surreal few scenes in which Craig and a now preggers Maxine change JM’s life out of all recognition, while all the while the actor is helpless to lift a finger to help himself. They turn him into a world-famous puppeteer, coincidentally enough, and live happily on Easy Street as a result. A situation that could go on indefinitely, but only as long as the wicked pair can continue to control the body and mind of one of the world’s most revered actors…
There are somewhat unnecessary cameos from Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn, who star as fictionalized versions of themselves. I think maybe they’re just good friends with JM, haha. The ending lost me completely. It was just too surreal and bloody confusing to boot. I liked Elijah though, the chimpanzee who needs a therapist to help him deal with a repressed trauma. Every film needs one of those, I always think.
Overall, this is a good fantasy-comedy film, and the scene that ensues after an outraged JM discovers what happens when he himself goes through the portal and gets sucked into himself is worth the price of entry alone. But if you like your films to make sense and have a nice rational, sensible storyline, then fuhgeddaboutit…! It ain’t that kinda film. Capiche…?
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY