“You know, am I me? Is Malkovich Malkovich?” asked Craig Schwartz.
Director Spike Jonze teamed up for the first time with brilliant writer, Charlie Kaufman, to finally present one of the most inventive identity drama in Being John Malkovich.
The idea was original and exceptional: a washed puppeteer, desperate for money and love, found a portal to the actor, John Malkovich’s head. Craig Schwartz (Cusack), the puppeteer, then found an idea along with her co-worker, Maxine (Keener), to exploit the portal to make money—allowing people to feel a 15-minute sensation to be in Malkovich’s head. While Malkovich started to feel that someone attempted to infiltrate his mind, Lotte (Diaz), Craig’s wife, entered the portal and strangely fell in love with Maxim. Then, a perplexing black comedy started off just like that.
Exploiting the meta-condition of someone’s identity and entangling it with a sexual-fetish drama was a clever way to create a bizarre drama that became somewhat funny; and that’s what Jonze did to translate Kaufman’s brilliant script. It was so quirky in a way that only indie film could make. The filmmakers inserted as much symbolism of lonesome and self-existence as possible in devising the narrative; at a glance, it made impressions as if this idea was unfilmable, but it turned out Jonze did great in his debut.
What I like most from Being John Malkovich:
- Charlie Kaufman’s idea to make a meta-film based on a real-life figure and fictionalize the life in such a surreal way that it looks real. This one is about John Malkovich, then later about himself. Brilliant!
- Spike Jonze’s devotion to the world-building and art-designs—including the 7 1/2 floor and the puppet workshop!
- The ensemble of cast! I don’t believe it was Cusack and Diaz until the credit rolled. However, their performances were fabulous—beyond belief.
- How the idea of existentialism and sexual fetish were combined to make something less philosophical but imaginable was a one-of-a-kind narrative style.
What I do not like:
- I always felt that this film was a little too much in presenting the feminism side.
- On some occasions, the film became too superficial than the audience for you know what I mean.
FINAL VERDICT: Being John Malkovich was original and exceptional. It’s a great combination of existentialism and sexual fetish as an idea to make something less philosophical but imaginable in a one-of-a-kind narrative style.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Drama, Comedy, Fantasy Directed by: Spike Jonze Written by: Charlie Kaufman Starred by: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich Running Time: 112 mins Rated R for language and sexuality