14 November 1999 | baumer
Weird and original does not make for a great film
This is one film that has me completely torn. On the one hand there is so much to admire about Being John Malkovich. The film is rich with great performances, it is directed very well by a new comer, it is a wonderfully original idea and seeing John Malcovich have the guts to portray himself, or to parody himself is quite amazing. But on the other hand there is much to critisize about this movie. It is slow, it doesn't really have a point and the only metaphors that I can get from the film are not clear or really that mind blowing, and the last half an hour of the film is plain and simply-----bad. I really think that this is the type of film that cannot fail critically, critics are too afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to an "arty" film like this one. It is safe and obvious to critisize a film like Armageddon or Bone Collector but admitting that you didn't really enjoy a film such as this is tricky as a critic because you may look foolish to your cronies so naturally all of them come out and tell you how wonderful and amazing and great and ya da ya da ya da this film is. But the one thing that I noticed when I read all of the reviews before I saw the film is that not one review really told me why this film is all that they say it is, and that is because it isn't. As I said, there is much to "admire" about Being John Malkovich, just not a lot to like. But I will tell you what is good before I tell you what isn't.
The performances are incredible. John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Katherine Keener and John Malkovich turn in stellar portrayals of who they are. Cusack is the eccentric puppeteer that can't seem to get a break in life, Diaz is his repressed wife that perhaps only a few years ago would have been not just smart but down right gorgeous. Now she doesn't care about herself, only her animals that she cares for which includes a repressed monkey. She goes through one of the biggest awakenings. Keener plays Maxine, a sexy bitch that Cusack falls in lust for and then love. She is a bit of an enigma yet she is very self assured. And of course Malkovich plays a version of himself, perhaps a version that we, the public think he is. All four of these performances are rich and deeply layered. The story is also good in the sense that it is different than anything I have seen. It is fresh and nice at times to see a movie that is different than anything you have seen before. This is one of those movies, and I enjoyed it for that reason. But that is where my praise ends. That is all that I can really say is good about the film. While the film has it's moments of comedy and of interesting observations about life ( the big one being not to live vicariously through someone else or you may lose your identity ) it just didn't keep me interested or entertained for the majority of the film and especially for the last half hour. And for me to really enjoy a film and to think it is worth recommending to others, there has to be something to keep my interest. This film just moves along and seems to go nowhere. It doesn't have anything really great to say and it doesn't really take you anywhere. As I said, sure it is different, but that does not make it good. I do have a feeling that this film is going to get a rediculous amount of mention at Oscar time, but that is not fair. There are at least five films that I think are worthy of Oscar mention before this one, and other bound to be great films haven't even come out yet ( The Green Mile just to name one ).
I think perhaps this is a film that should be seen once because maybe what I get or didn't get out of it is completely different than what someone else will. After all there are many positive reviews in this very forum and perhaps that is saying something, but I personally don't like the film all that much and I think there are many films at the theater that are worth your time more than this one is. If you see it, don't say you haven't been warned. This is one film that I think the general public is wrong about and the longer it stays out, the more people will have a chance to see it and then people will realize that weird and original does make it great. It deserves kudos for being like that but not praise. There is a difference.