5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Being John Malkovich (DVD)
Spike Jonze's debut is one of those strange little unclassifiable movies that come along once in a while. A beautifully surreal, black comedy that plays its increasingly bizarre premise straight-faced. And surely, a contender for the most original plot of all time.
Craig Schwartz is a struggling street puppeteer who gains employment to help finance his talents on the mysterious Floor 7 1/2 (with - quite literally - low overheads). It is here, behind an office filing cabinet, he discovers a strange portal that leads into (wait for it) the brain of John Malkovich (playing himself). Out for a quick buck, discovering that whoever crawls through the doorway becomes the eponymous actor for 15 minutes before being unceremoniously ejected out onto the side of some New Jersey turnpike, Schwartz devises the ultimate 'experience', selling trips into the actor's head for $200. If this isn't weird enough, the plot convolutes further to accommodate such elements as lesbian love trysts, love triangles (or rather quadrangles), gender disorientation, chimpanzee childhood trauma flashbacks and even Malkovich entering his own self
Malkovich's portrayal of his private off-screen self is self-effacingly superb, and perhaps the bravest performance to ever grace celluloid; at once, campy, effete, conceited. The restaurant scene touches on genius.
As if Woody Allen (circa: The Purple Rose of Cairo) had scripted the original Twilight Zone series, this is a movie of equal parts comedy and tragedy. The dialogue is sharp, witty; the deeply flawed characters, fully realised (if not identifiable), spiralling out of control towards an inevitable but creepily effective denouement.
Most of the film's power, however, derives from its realistic approach to such a ludicrous idea. Its internal logic and cod-psychology remain intact and wholly believable.
Being John Malkovich, although of an acquired taste, is an undeniably unique and unpredictable voyage of cinema fantasy. And for much less than $200.