Stars: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich, Catherine Keener
“Being John Malkovich” is one of the most original yet bizarre tales I have ever encountered. It is a refreshing film to make your head spin, a magical romp through the rabbit hole of director Spike Jonze’ and writer Charlie Kaufman’s eclectic-electric brains. I was intriqued.
Here’s the story. John Cusack plays Craig Schwartz, a disshelved out of work puppeteer who revels in his talents because it allows him to ‘live in another person’s skin to see what they see and feel what they feel’. He’s a master at his art, but sadly, no one needs puppeteers these days. He lives in a basement apartment with his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz), a psychologically disturbed chimp named Elijah and an assortment of other animals.
Craig finally agrees to look for a job and lands one at the unusual Lester Corp. It is there that he accidentally comes upon a portal – not to another time – but to another mind. And that’s where the title character John Malkovich comes in. Actor John Malkovich plays himself, who is totally unaware, at first, that his body is a vessel for strange visitations from Craig, Lotte and pretty soon a bevy of joy seekers willing to pay $200 for the ride of their lives.
Cusack gets to do what I had not thought him capable: play a somber, low key complex figure who builds in intensity as the film does. And I really liked him here. Cameron Diaz is wonderful as the unfulfilled wife who finds her true identity in John Malkovich and John Malkovich – what can I say? He’s superb as what, himself? Yes and no – what a role, indeed!
Orson Bean plays Dr. Lester, the onwer of the company where Craig finds work and he’s very good in his portrayal of a wacky, lecherous old coot with a formidable secret. Catherine Keener plays Maxine, Craig’s co-worker at Lester Corp. who sets the ball rolling to develop the J.M., Inc. (John Malkovich) project.
By the way, the puppet work is just wonderful and allows a good look into Craig’s brain and emotions. The portal is the ultimate puppet show for Craig, though, because through John Malkovich he can ultimately experience another’s life like never before.
Lotta says: this beautifully unique film is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. See it.