Being John Malkovich (1999)

by George Watches Things


During certain scenes of Being John Malkovich, I didn’t know whether it was trying to be dramatic or comedic. But it doesn’t matter, since, after the first half-hour, the movie isn’t good at being either one. This mess of a movie begins with humor. To me, when a movie about a portal into John Malkovich’s mind starts of with humor, I don’t expect it to swerve onto the road of pain, sadness, and nonsense. Not only were the characters enduring the pain and sadness, but so was I.

The story follows a mopey puppeteer, Craig (John Cusack), who takes a job at a “filing company.” (One of the few genuinely funny scenes is the bit with the secretary.) There, he finds a very small door which happens to be a portal into John Malkovich’s life. Maxine (Catherine Keener), a sexy woman he works with, takes advantage of him in order to gain money from selling 15 minutes inside John Malkovich. Craig falls in love with Maxine, but (whoops!) so does his wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz). She impulsively demands to have a sex change. I can’t decide which character is flimsier, Maxine or Lotte. Or maybe it’s the dark horse, Dr. Lester (Orson Bean), an old pervert who has a trick up his sleeve.

This movie is neither funny nor believable. Especially when Craig slams his wife on the ground, forces her to call Maxine so Craig can go jump into John Malkovich’s body so that he can trick her and (?!?!) whatever, and then puts her in a cage with the most likable character in the movie, Elijah the Chimp. This isn’t the first time I’ve disagreed with popular opinion, and it won’t be the last, but this one truly puzzles me.

(Being John Malkovich is available now on Netflix Instant.)