Being John Malkovich

on October 29, 1999 by Christine James
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Whoever said there are only eight stories to be told in all of human experience had better take a new count. This black comedy about an unemployed puppeteer named Craig (John Cusack) who finds a secret portal into the head of actor John Malkovich (who plays himself) is nothing if not original. The experience of seeing things from Malkovich's perspective, of "being" the successful, respected John Malkovich, is exhilarating for the frustrated artist, but things get out of hand when Craig's frowzy wife (an almost unrecognizable Cameron Diaz) and a manipulative co-worker ("Your Friends and Neighbors'" Catherine Keener) try to use the portal for their own selfish purposes. Poor Malkovich himself, meanwhile, has no idea what's going on, but is becoming increasingly distressed by the thoughts and impulses being imposed upon him.
As the world's weirdest four-way love rectangle unfolds, our protagonists, save for the unwitting, hapless Malkovich, become more and more despicable as they go to bizarre and desperate extremes to get what they want. That's when "Being John Malkovich" descends disappointingly from hilarious whimsy into bleak, repellant, "Outer Limits"-tinged dysfunction. Starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich. Directed by Spike Jonze. Written by Charlie Kaufman. Produced by Steve Golin, Vincent Landay, Sandy Stern and Michael Stipe. A USA release. Black comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 108 min
Tags: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich. Directed by Spike Jonze. Written by Charlie Kaufman. Produced by Steve Golin, Vincent Landay, Sandy Stern and Michael Stipe. A USA release. Black comedy, puppeteer, secret, head, artist, whimsy
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