Being John Malkovich

Of all the movies to come out so far this year, Being John Malkovich is by far the most creative. This original and bizarre film by written by Charlie Kaufman (his first screenplay) and first time director Spike Jonze (featured in Three Kings and director of numerous music videos) defies any conventional description. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack, Pushing Tin, This is My Father) is an out of work puppeteer. He lives with his wife Lotte (a dumpy looking Cameron Diaz, Very Bad Things, There's Something About Mary), who literally brings her work home with her. Their house is filled with all manners of sick animals, from stressed out apes to wounded iguanas. In order to help with their weak financial situation, Craig, at Lotte's prodding, decides to get a job. He finds a job for a file clerk, which he thinks fits him just fine, since, as a puppeteer, he has very dexterious fingers.

Sounds normal so far, right? Well, get ready to throw any sense of normality out the window. Craig's job on the 7 1/2th floor of a building, where the ceilings are so low that everyone walks around hunched over. His boss (Orson Bean, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Final Judgement) is a lecherous, ancient man, and the boss's secretary (Mary Kay Place, Girl Interrupted, Pecker) is a strange woman who does not seem to understand anybody. One day, Craig finds a hole behind a file cabinet. The hole is a portal into the mind of John Malkovich. Anyone entering the portal will enter the mind of John Malkovich, experiencing everything that he does, seeing everything he sees, for about fifteen minutes, before being thrown out on the side of the road in New Jersey. Craig tells Maxine (Catherine Keener, 8MM, Your Friends and Neighbors), a coworker whom he is infatuated with. She does not want to give him the time of day, but is intrigued with this portal. Together, they open a business, selling jaunts into the mind of Malkovich.

Lotte tries a trip inside Malkovich's mind, and it changes her life drastically. It is a freeing experience for her, and she decides to become transsexual. She is instantly attracted to Maxine, who is drawn to the idea of making love to Malkovich while Lotte is in his mind. Meanwhile, Craig is struck with the "philosophical can of worms" he opened. Now, the puppeteer can go to the next level, with his puppet being a human being. John Malkovich himself (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, The Man in the Iron Mask) finds out about the portal, and he is understandably incensed. When he takes a trip into his own mind, the results are strikingly weird. Kaufman's story then proceeds in more unexpected directions, before settling on an equally strange, but satisfying ending that manages to tie together all of the strange ideas present.

Being John Malkovich is also very funny. Things that seem completely unbelievable make sense within the confines of the movie, and almost seem plausible in real life. Ridiculous elements are present in almost every aspect of the movie. We are drawn into this wacky world by Jonze, who directs a talented cast of actors. Best of all is John Malkovich himself, who gives a hilarious performance as himself, or how many people view him. Also, it takes a lot of guts by Cusack, and especially Diaz, to appear as slobs for the entire movie. It is refreshing when you sit through a movie and have no clue what is going to happen next. Watching Being John Malkovich is a brilliant surreal fantasy that everyone should try experience.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good
1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated R for language and sexuality.