Being John Malkovich (1999)

SPIKE JONZE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

USA, 1999.   Astralwerks, Gramercy Pictures, Propaganda Films, Single Cell Pictures.   Screenplay by .   Cinematography by .   Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Brilliant comedy that sets audience expectation on its ear. An office temp () finds a portal in his filing room that leads into the mind of John Malkovich and subsequently dumps him onto the New Jersey Turnpike five minutes later. Cusack’s wife () is a frizzy-haired animal lover who falls in love with his new co-worker Catherine Keener (in a bitingly brilliant performance) despite the fact that he had his eye on her first.

He and Keener team up to turn voyages into Malkovich’s mind into a moneymaking scheme, putting in motion a plot of such enormous lunacy that even if you don’t like it, you have to admire screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s audacity.

Spike Jonze’s direction is consistently off-the-wall, and Malkovich gives his very best performance as a fictional version of himself; the scene where he enters his own mind and experiences millions of different Malkoviches is pure genius (though slightly less genius than the sequence where the ladies enter the labyrinth of his subconscious).

The film never gets too engrossed in its own gimmicks, however, telling a very effective story about people’s need to control others and see the world from behind a hidden perspective.

The Criterion Collection:  #611

Academy Award Nominations Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener); Best Director (Spike Jonze); Best Original Screenplay

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Supporting Actress (Cameron Diaz); Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener); Best Screenplay

Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations:  Outstanding Motion Picture Cast; Best Supporting Actress (Cameron Diaz); Best Supporting Actress (Catherine Keener)

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