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Release Date - November 5


Craig Schwartz - John Cusack

Lotte Schwartz- Cameron Diaz

John Malkovich - John Malkovich

Dr Lester - Orson Bean

Maxine - Catherine Keener

Director: Spike Jonze

Previews: Ride With The Devil, Man On The Moon, Cradle Will Rock, Eye Of The Beholder, Hanging Up

It is something that all of us have done at some point in our lives. We dream of being someone else, pretend we have a life, or lifestyle that we desire. These can be about a specific person or just a generic desire, with specific material or emotional needs being filled. In fact, the holiday of Halloween is kind of based around it. We dress up, and for a night and we are someone, or something else. Why do we do this? Is it to fill the void that we feel exists in our lives? Is it to experience something that we dream of, to walk in someone else’s shoes, even for a brief moment? During the 70’s, I believe it was Andy Warhol who stated that everyone will have 15 minutes of fame. (now known as the Vanilla Ice/Spice Girls syndrome) Whatever the reasoning is, we have all done it. Now, first time movie director, long time MTV video director Spike Jonze, brings our dreams and visions to the screen in a unique, odd, yet intriguingly captivating manner.

The basics of Being John Malkovich are to follow, first, a disclaimer. It is difficult to really explain the premise of this movie without making it sound totally preposterous or giving too much away. So, I will skim the basics, as anyone who has at least heard of the movie will know. I will leave the rest of the revelations, and curious introspects, for those who choose to venture to the theater to see it. Besides, I don’t really think I could go into it too much if I tried.

John Cusack is a puppeteer who discovers a small door, which takes him into the mind of John Malkovich for 15 minutes at a time. I know, it already sounds kind of silly, but believe it or not, there is a whole lot more going on than just this. This is the basis around which the rest of the movie is built. It veers into the psychological aspects and desires of those who seek more out of life. Those whom at least for a few moments want to be someone else.

My thoughts and feelings on this movie are curious and jumbled. This has been a very hard analysis to put into words. It delves deeper than you would expect into who these characters are, but sometimes these are a bit inconsistent. The characters are sympathetic, yet ruthless, curious, yet self-servient, in my eyes. The storytelling is very edgy, unique, and definitely never, ever predictable. Unlike most movies out there, this is unlike anything you have ever seen before, and will take turns that you will really never see coming. Sometimes these are handled well, sometimes they seem a bit forced, as if Jonze was trying to be alternative, or dark and edgy. He shows the visual touches and a more adept way of storytelling and character development than you would expect from someone previously only dealing with coordinating images with music. He is patient, and calm in his handling of situations that other directors may have rushed and blown out of proportion. It is definitely the prototype of a dark comedy. It gives us a view of life’s less than happier moments. Then it twists these moments into a vision where humor, enlightenment, or at least a smile, can be found amidst reality's darkness. There are some moments of humor here. Sometimes we laugh just for the obvious humor, other times because we can relate or just cannot believe what we are seeing. The humor on every level works for the most part, and is one of the reasons to see this movie.

Another thing going for the good here are the performances. Cusack and Cameron Diaz are nearly unrecognizable, Diaz more than Cusack. Both are effective in their roles, they are flustered, frustrated, desperate, and alone, and we feel this with them. Keener is naturally wicked, playful and manipulative, see her in Your Friends and Neighbors for more of her good work. The key to this movie is of course is its namesake. Malkovich has always been an admired, respected, if but not completely well known actor, another subject touched upon. In this movie, he has to flex all of his range, from a self-mockery of his ego and eccentricities, to the personalities of all those who are inside him. Indeed, an impressive performance, and almost redeeming him for his silly turns in Rounders and Messenger.

Ultimately, I would recommend this movie, as one time experience into the odd side of filmmaking. Jonze takes a simple premise, and expands in unexpected directions with mixed, but mostly positive results. The surprise is how well he sometimes handles the storylines and characters. Sometimes first time directors are as giddy as a 6-year old at Toys R’ Us. They want to shock us, scare us, surprise us and make us think they are the new avant garde thing. What Jonze has figured out, is that by being patient and infusing some intelligence, laced with dark humor, based in things we can relate to, you can entertain and captivate an audience fairly easily. Being John Malkovich attempts to find humor in the madness around us. It searches for enlightenment and smiles, amidst the emotional strife that fills the lives of its characters. It does with a quirky style that always makes sense, but does not always work. If you seek some thoughtful, visual humor, then let this movie inside your head, and you should enjoy it

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Images courtesy of Grammercy Pictures

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