Being John Malkovich

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Director:Spike Jonze
Writer:Charlie Kaufman
USA Films; PG; 112 minutes
Cast:John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich

Spike Jonze' directorial debut, Being John Malkovich, is a madcap surreal comedy leading straight into John Malkovich's consciousness. Aimless puppeteer Craig (John Cusack) discovers the portal to Malkovich behind dusty file cabinets in the “Deep Storage” room at his filing firm located on the 7 1/2 floor. You get to occupy Malkovich's being for about 15 minutes before expulsion onto the New Jersey Turnpike. Needless to say, this is a very strange film. Amazingly enough, the movie soon escalates into heightened levels of absurdity.

And this is where it goes wrong. When portraying loser Craig and his frumpy animal loving wife (a deliciously glamour-free Cameron Diaz) it is spot-on and hilarious. Initial complications involving Malkovich as himself are amusing as well, but the end derails into a contrived mess. The script is the problem, not the acting. Malkovich plays himself with a bravely cheeky ease; Charlie Sheen steals the cameo show as well. The female characters are more complex and, unfortunately, less developed. Affairs held via Malkovich add an unusual twist but are never quite believable.

Being John Malkovich is ambitious, funny, and unique, but not as stunning as it could have been.

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