5 July 2005 | The_Void
Absolutely sublime modern classic
Originality is one thing that I very much admire in cinema, and it's also the reason I rate Being John Malkovich so highly. Charlie Kaufman has taken an amazingly weird premise and twisted round a suitably offbeat story to create a movie that is as bizarre as it is as it is compelling, and it's definitely a major highlight of American cinema in the 1990's. Charlie Kaufman may have scripted his most acclaimed film in 2004 with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but if you want to see his best work - you need look no further than his first feature. Quite how anyone could have thought of this premise remains a mystery, but I'm certainly glad that Kaufman did. The story revolves around a portal that leads directly into the head of the actor, John Malkovich. After discovering this portal, puppeteer Craig Schwartz shares it with his colleague and crush, the beautiful Maxine Lund. Things start to get complicated when Craig's wife, Lottie, becomes involved and it turns out that Craig's not the only one with a crush on Maxine.
The usually presentable John Cusack and Cameron Diaz are completely unrecognisable as this film's leading couple and both give career highlight performances. Catherine Keener fleshes out a threesome of leads. She is seductively sexy, and delivers a performance that reflects the quality of this film on the whole. And, of course, John Malkovich stars also. The fact that it's John Malkovich who is the title actor is what really makes this film. Had the film have been, say, 'Being Tom Cruise'; it wouldn't have had nearly the same impact. Malkovich is a big actor, but he's not THAT big and the fact that it's him takes the film away from the mainstream and allows it's offbeat indie roots to stay intact. Kaufman ensures that the story works by constantly adding new and weird events into the plot, and this in turn ensures that we never know what's coming next. Of course, this is exactly what you want from any film. The elements of the story aren't bound tightly enough to really make a lasting impression where substance is concerned; but it hardly matters, as there's enough offbeat invention in this film to more than adequately mask that fact It's easy to call this movie pretentious or silly; but it's also pointless. Being John Malkovich is a modern classic.