Being John Malkovich

Ever wanted to be someone else? Now you can.

Comedy Drama Fantasy
113 min     7.413     1999     USA


One day at work, unsuccessful puppeteer Craig finds a portal into the head of actor John Malkovich. The portal soon becomes a passion for anybody who enters its mad and controlling world of overtaking another human body.


d54.pod wrote:
Full review: ---- While there are many movies about self discovery, self growth and identity, not many (if really any) have taken the approach of 'Being John Malkovich'. The general premise of the movie is: struggling puppeteer Craig discovers a portal allowing him to enter the mind of the actor John Malkovich. Through multiple attempts of possessing John Malkovich, he is able to take control of the actor and live his life through him. His wife, Lotte, and his new love interest Maxine are also entangled in the journey. The finale of the movie shifts the dynamics in the relationship as Lotte and Maxine find love and Craig is eventually forever trapped in a kind of 'sunken place'. While the movies plot is somewhat straightforward and easy to follow, the movie is highly entertaining due to the great writing and screenplay along with the great pacing and performances from the small but highly talented cast (Cusack, Diaz, Keener and Malkovich). There are also enough elements of absurdity and surrealism to create this somewhat fantastical world we are immersed in. However, the real highlight of 'Being John Malkovich' is the number of ethical and philosophical questions about self identity and consciousness it evokes. The central question asked in this movie, is what is identity and how do we define it? The central character Craig, battles throughout the film with his desire for both power and clout. As a highly insecure struggling artist, he instantly falls for Maxine, but it's clear his desire is more about what Maxine represent's (a highly confident and seductive women) rather than who she is as an individual. She is a means to an end to help make up for all that is lacking in Craig's life. He believes that having possession of someone like Maxine would help him in his endeavour as an artist and ultimately a man. Lotte on the other hand, while also struggling with self-acceptance, is looking for someone to fill the void which has been left by Craig through his disinterest in her romantically as her husband. Lotte appears to be somewhat of a victim throughout the film, as her struggle to find love, and embrace her own power comes through some rather difficult and unfortunate circumstances (e.g. being rejected by Maxine on multiple occasions and later being trapped in a cage with her pet Chimpanzee). Maxine, maybe the most interesting of the 3, comes across as opportunistic and rather shallow, but highly confident in contrast to Craig and Lotte. Her journey to eventual happiness comes in the way of realising the beauty within through falling in love with Lotte, but at first, only when she is in Malkovich's vessel. In contrast, her relationship with Craig when he has captured Malkovich is shallow and unsatisfying. The subtle similarities, and stark differences between these three characters leads to some interesting questions which are posed about self discovery and the journey each character takes to uncover about themselves. John Malkovich, although mostly just a device throughout the film, has perhaps the most bizarre scene in the entire movie, when he himself enters his own portal and see's a world full of different versions of himself. This scene has a number of different interpretations about how we often view ourselves, the different characters we play in our own lives, and how our subconscious can be visually represented. Being John Malkovich is a special movie which takes a central theme of identity and makes the audience question what that really means. It does so in a highly engaging manner, never sacrificing an engaging story for the overall deeper themes at hand. It's a movie which viewers can come back to multiple times and still be in awe.