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Being John Malkovich

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Being John Malkovich

Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz
Director: Spike Jonze
Rated: R
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: October 1999
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: John Malkovich, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean, W. Earl Brown, Mary Kay Place, Charlie Sheen, Spike Jonze

Review by John Beachem
3½ stars out of 4

In a review of "The House on Haunted Hill", I stated that Hollywood was slowly growing devoid of original ideas. I stand corrected. "Being John Malkovich" has been called the most original movie of the year by some, but I disagree. It is the most original movie of the decade. If it had only been trimmed down some from its 112 minute running time, I would have happily granted it a full five star rating.

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is master of his profession, but it's not a profession appreciated by the general public. Craig, is a puppeteer. His wife, Lotte (an almost unrecognizable Cameron Diaz), is a pet store owner who is supportive of Craig, but feels he should try something new until his career as a puppeteer takes off. So Craig aquires a job as a filing clerk on the 7 1/2 floor of a downtown office building. Here he meets Maxine (Catherine Keener), a woman he is immediately smitten with. Maxine has no interest in Craig, but when Craig discovers a tiny door behind a filing cabinet which leads into John Malkovich's brain, Maxine partners with him to create a business where one can buy a ticket for 200 dollars to be John Malkovich for fifteen minutes.

Due to the unusual plot at work here, my summary cannot possibly do the film justice. Suffice to say that nothing like this has been made since Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" was turned into a film. In fact, I think Charlie Kaufman owes quite a debt to Lewis Carroll, and was disappointed at not seeing his name in the credits as a "special thanks to" mention. Still, I personally believe that this film deserves a special oscar from the academy come award time.

The script, which is clearly the high point here, is backed up by such fantastic performances from the cast that I would be shocked if there were not at least one oscar nomination amongst them. John Cusack is perfect as the constantly haggard looking Craig, and Cameron Diaz is hysterical as a woman who so loves her pet store that she brings all the pets home with her (the apartment in which they live is filled with iguanas and chimps). However, the real standout performance here comes from John Malkovich, playing an exaggerated version of himself. How the man was convinced to play such a self-effacing role is beyond me.

One last point which deserves mention, is the very brief, but fantastic appearance by Charlie Sheen as Malkovich's best friend. If there is one man in Hollywood who really needs a jump-start to his career, it's Sheen, and this might just do it. His hair, by the way, at the end of the film, has to be seen to be believed. Also watch for Brad Pitt's quick appearance, which involves him doing nothing but making an amusing facial expression. As stated, "Being John Malkovich" runs a little too long, but don't let this stop you from seeing the most original movie in ages. I give it a well earned four and a half stars, and a full recommendation.

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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made, see it now. * * * * - Great flick. Try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad. See it if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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