Friday, May 10, 2013

Movie Review - Being John Malkovich (1999)

A puppeteer (John Cusack), his animal loving wife (Cameron Diaz), and a woman they both desire (Catherine Keener) discover a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich.  Inside of this portal is the first person experience of Malkovich living his life.  The situation grows in complexity when the puppeteer starts to learn how to control Malkovich's body.  Oddball comedy and tragedy ensues.

"You don't know how lucky you are being a monkey.  Because consciousness is a terrible curse."

This film, directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, has a densely layered plot with plenty of insight into the human mind.  John Malkovich is a vessel literally and metaphorically.  The discovery of the portal amplifies the true nature of each character.  Craig, the puppeteer, craves the acceptance of the public for his talent.  Lotte, his wife, lives to care for her animals but ultimately wants a child.  Maxine, the woman both Lotte and Craig claim to love, believes her beauty is worth the status she lacks.  Malkovich is the means by which they believe happiness is possible.

Being John Malkovich is very applicable to this digital age of live celebrity updates and involvement with the public.  Many wish they were someone who had more freedom to do whatever they wanted in their relationships, profession, and overall life.  Craig, Lotte, and Maxine are all out for themselves: seeing Malkovich as an opportunity and not a human being.  Walking in someone else's shoes is traditionally viewed as a chance to understand another person, but in this case it is exploited for narcissistic agendas.  Only one character in the movie has true compassion for other human beings, and it is Elijah, their pet monkey.  

Being John Malkovich is currently available for stream on Netflix.

Rated R for language and sexuality


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