Being John Malkovich(released Oct/99)stars John Cusack as Craig Schwartz,Cameron Diaz plays Lotte Schwartz, Catherine Keener plays Maxine Lund,Orson Bean plays Dr. Lester,and of course John Malkovich as himself.Shot in the late 90s when Malkovich's career was quite hot,I found this strange and off the wall film is SO strange,it was good.This was director Spike Jonze's directorial,feature film,debut.Jonze has done for film,thematically at least,what Spike Jones did for music.
The story here starts with the life of a struggling artist/puppeteer,Craig.He is married to Lotte who owns a menagerie of animals,not the least of which is a chimp who has "issues".Out of work,Craig finally applies for a real job,which takes him to the 7 and 1/2 floor of an old office building in NYC.The boss there is one Dr Lester,a kind old man,whose secretary has a doctorate in speech impedimentology(?),but has trouble understanding the simplest of phrases.
Craig meets and falls hard for a woman who works on the that floor,Maxine.His feelings are unrequited,and he has to work through them through his puppets at night.One day he drops a file behind a cabinet.He pulls it out only to discover a trapped door.Behind that is a tunnel/portal which he soon discovers leads directly into the mind of John Malkovich.After about 15 minutes in his mind,one is deposited beside the busy New Jersey Turnpike.He tells his wife,who takes the "plunge"also.She will repeat the process and come to think she should really be a woman.That is because Maxine,who Craig has told also,has actually gone through the portal and gone out with John in person.However Lotte was in John's mind at that time and she has fallen hard for Maxine,and Maxine has developed affections for Lotte also.
Craig and Maxine have,in the interim,set up a business on the side of allowing people to enter the portal for $200 a pop.Craig gets jealous of the time Maxine and his wife spend together and he locks his wife up temporarily in the chimp cage.Craig has newly discovered that he can now control the amount of time he spends in J.M.'s body,and Maxine and he become an item.Lotte escapes her imprisonment and heads for Dr Lester's home.On a previous visit she had noticed a room full of pictures of Malkovich.She now asks him what his interest in him is.He explains that he has been going from one body to the next for over a hundred years now and that he,and others that he has chosen,will transfer inside J.M's mind on the day of his 44th birthday.Lester invites her to accompany them.
Craig/Malkovich and Maxine eventually marry and have a child.Craig has removed Malkovich from his acting to career to pursue an overly successful career in puppeteering.On his 44th birthday he receives a call from Lester demanding he get out of Malkovich's mind or else Maxine will die.It is a bluff,but in the end it works.Lester and his friends enter J.M's mind on schedule.The film ends as we see the couple Maxine and Lotte on a beach with Maxine's daughter.From inside the girl's mind we hear Craig longing for the affections of Maxine.
What a plot,eh? It sounds so bizarre retelling it,but you really have to see it to believe it.There are so many neat touches such as Malkovich's close friend Charlie Sheen,popping in and out of the film from time to time.And watch for the pre-911 NYC skyline with the twin towers in evidence.Director Jonze does a nice job of layering the film.He slowly introduces us to his main characters and their quirks,allowing time for us to believe what we see,then builds upon the foundation,ending at the most quirkiest and dizziest heights I have ever seen.Also there is a point in the film where Malkovich actually enters his own mind,and what a hoot that turns out to be.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 1:85:1 and is quite clear.Extras abound here and include several featurettes,along with the trailer and commentary.
All in all a nice but bizarre film that will certainly have you scratching your head at times.I found the plot so out there,so off the wall and different that I liked it.Recommended.