"You see the world through John Malkovich's eyes. Then after about 15 minutes, you're spit out into a ditch on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike!"-Craig Schwartz
Spike Jonze is a very successful music video directore having worked with Beastie Boys, Bjork, and R.E.M. "Being John Malkovich" was his first feature film as director, and it is brilliant both in visual style, and witty dialogue.
Craig Schwartz (John Cusack)is an out of work puppeteer who's dream is to just get paid doing what he loves. Being that puppetry is a terribly difficult field to make a living from, he begrudgingly gets a new job on the 7 1/2 floor of the Merton-Flemmer building as a filist. His girlfriend Lotte (Cameron Diaz) and he have numerous pets at home, including a chipmanzee. Lotte wants kids and feels Craig has distanced himself from her, and Craig feels trapped in his life with her and escapes into his art. On Craig's first day at LesterCorp, he meets, and falls for a sexy, witty co-worker, Maxine (Catherine Keener)who treats him like garbage and he eats it up. She is a welcome opposite to his put-upon, needy girlfriend. One day, while filing papers away, Craig accidentally loses a file behind a cabinet. When he moves it, he sees a tiny door, not unlike the small door Alice encounters in Wonderland. He opens it and see's a long, dark, muddy tunnel, also a reference, perhaps, to the rabbit hole Alice comes across. Unable to quelch his curiosity, Craig slowly decends down the tunnel until the door slams shut, he flies wildly down the tunnel, and lands inside the mind of John Malkovich, playing himself with very cheeky humor in regards to his career and personality. After living as Malkovich for 15 minutes, Craig is dropped onto the New Jersey Turnpike. It's an odd concept for a storyline, but an interesting, and original one, written by Charlie Kaufman, who in my mind, is a brilliant writer (Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Maxine and Craig decide to sell tickets to the "Malkovich ride", and this is where things get even wilder. Lotte takes the trip, and begins to question her existence as a woman, having enjoyed being in the skin of a man so much. Maxine meets, and begins a relationship with Malkovich, but is only interested in him when Lotte is inside. Craig, furious at this and filled with lust and desire for Maxine, enters Malkovich while he and Maxine are together, and soon discovers that Malkovich's brain is not unlike a marionette puppet that he can control. He also discovers that if he focuses on it, he can stay inside and become John Malkovich for good. So he does. But how long can he keep this charade up?
There are many laughs in this film from the excellent dialogue between all these quirky characters, and a real sense of mystery and wonderment as well. Why does Malkovich have a portal? What is the significance of that? Who's life would I trade mine for? If I was the main character in this film, perhaps it would be Being Brad Pitt. This film was quite amazing because it does raise some questions about our lives, and the desire to be someone else. The plot, and the ending can be a tad confusing the first time around, but the second viewing is a real treat, as you start to understand all the complexities with a little more clarity. Kudos to Malkovich for having such a great sense of humor about himself, and Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman, for creating this truly mystifying story.