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Being John Malkovich (29-Oct-1999)

Director: Spike Jonze

Writer: Charlie Kaufman

Music: Carter Burwell

Producers: Michael Stipe; Sandy Stern; Steve Golin; Vincent Landay

Keywords: Sci-Fi/Comedy, Puppets, Surreal

Down-on-his-luck puppeteer Craig Schwartz finds employment as a file clerk in an office with low overhead. Behind a filing cabinet he discovers a portal which, if entered, gives you fifteen minutes in the brain of John Malkovich, then spits you out on the New Jersey Turnpike. Craig enters business with Maxine, a femme fatale from work who has no actual interest in Craig, selling tickets to the John Malkovich experience; it does not go well from there. Fresh and imaginative plot; excellent performances; thoroughly riveting.

[watch trailer]

NameOccupationBirthDeathKnown for
Orson Bean
22-Jul-1928   Anatomy of a Murder
W. Earl Brown
7-Sep-1963   The Alamo, Deadwood
John Cusack
28-Jun-1966   High Fidelity
Cameron Diaz
30-Aug-1972   There's Something About Mary
Willie Garson
20-Feb-1964   Stanford Blatch on Sex and the City
Pamela Hayden
28-Nov-1953   Milhouse on The Simpsons
Reggie Hayes
15-Jul-1969   William Jerome Dent on Girlfriends
Catherine Keener
23-Mar-1959   Maxine in Being John Malkovich
John Malkovich
9-Dec-1953   Subject of Being John Malkovich
Mary Kay Place
23-Sep-1947   Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
Charlie Sheen
3-Sep-1965   The prodigal Sheen
Octavia Spencer
25-May-1972   The Help


John Cusack   ...   Craig Schwartz
Cameron Diaz   ...   Lotte Schwartz
Catherine Keener   ...   Maxine
Orson Bean   ...   Dr. Lester
Mary Kay Place   ...   Floris
W. Earl Brown   ...   First J.M. Inc. Customer
Carlos Jacott   ...   Larry the Agent
Willie Garson   ...   Guy in Restaurant
Byrne Piven   ...   Captain Mertin
Gregory Sporleder   ...   Drunk at Bar
Charlie Sheen   ...   Charlie
John Malkovich   ...   John Horatio Malkovich
In order of appearance
Ned Bellamy   ...   Derek Mantini
Eric Weinstein   ...   Father at Puppet Show
Madison Lanc   ...   Daughter at Puppet Show
Octavia L. Spencer   ...   Woman in Elevator
K. K. Dodds   ...   Wendy
Reggie Hayes   ...   Don
Judith Wetzell   ...   Tiny Woman
Kevin Carroll   ...   Cab Driver
Gerald Emerick   ...   Sad Man in Line
Bill M. Ryusaki   ...   Mr. Hiroshi
Richard Fancy   ...   Johnson Heyward
Patti Tippo   ...   Malkovich's Mother
Daniel Hansen   ...   Boy Malkovich
Mariah O'Brien   ...   Girl Creeped Out by Malkovich
Kelly Teacher   ...   Emily
Lester's Friends
Jacqueline Benoit   ...   Lester's Friend
William N. Buck   ...   Lester's Friend
Christine D. Coleman   ...   Lester's Friend
Jeanne Diehl   ...   Lester's Friend
Audrey Gelfand   ...   Lester's Friend
Yetta Ginsburg   ...   Lester's Friend
Sylvester Jenkins   ...   Lester's Friend
Roy C. Johnson   ...   Lester's Friend
Eddie J. Low   ...   Lester's Friend
Ralph W. Spaulding   ...   Lester's Friend
David Wyler   ...   Lester's Friend
Flori Wyler   ...   Lester's Friend
Ballet Dancers
Kevin Lee   ...   Ballet Dancer
Marlowe Bassett   ...   Ballet Dancer
Jennifer Canzoneri   ...   Ballet Dancer
Kristie Cordle   ...   Ballet Dancer
Denise Dabrowski   ...   Ballet Dancer
Kristin D'Andrea   ...   Ballet Dancer
Charlene Grimsley   ...   Ballet Dancer
Christine Krejer   ...   Ballet Dancer
Erica Long   ...   Ballet Dancer
Yvonne Montelius   ...   Ballet Dancer
Jessica Neuberger   ...   Ballet Dancer
Sara Rifkin   ...   Ballet Dancer
Elizabeth Rivera   ...   Ballet Dancer
Chelsa Sjostrom   ...   Ballet Dancer
Featured Character Voices
Pamela Hayden   ...   Featured Character Voice (voice)
Jayne Hess   ...   Featured Character Voice (voice)
Michelle Madden   ...   Featured Character Voice (voice)
Greg O'Neill   ...   Featured Character Voice (voice)
Neil Ross   ...   Featured Character Voice (voice)
Bill Wittman   ...   Featured Character Voice (voice)


Review by Walter Frith (posted on 9-Jun-2007)

If you think you've seen it all in Hollywood, you haven't. If you think you've seen it all in every actor who ever played himself, you haven't. If you think you'll be in for quite a surprise with 'Being John Malkovich', you will. This is one of the most bizarre and weirdly obtuse films that disappointed me at times while it delighted and intrigued me at other points during its running time. It almost looks like the paradox found in a Terry Gilliam film with a profound sense of visual attraction while putting forward the dark side of human personality. Set in New York City in the present day, the story concerns itself with a puppeteer named Craig Schwartz (John Cusack). He is the type who works odd jobs displaying his art and doesn't have a steady job. He sleeps late and lives with his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) who works at a pet store. Their apartment is flooded with animals. The dogs, cats and chimps roam around freely and they have many other animals around for companionship. Craig takes a job working in a most unique place. An office building has a floor that doesn't show up on the elevator's button because following the number is 1/2. How can you have 1/2 a floor? The floor is only about 4 to 5 feet high. Everyone walks hunched over. The doors are all miniature size and the office furniture fits just fine as do the employees, as long as they're sitting down. Craig's job will be that of a file clerk. Since he is a puppeteer, he has fast fingers and it shows when he's given a test to perform. He's hired. He meets the office tramp, Maxine (Catherine Keener), who is a foul woman with a witch like personality. There is a strange sexual attraction between the two of them which dominates parts of the film. THE PLOT THICKENS. Craig is working one day when he drops a file folder behind the filing cabinet. Don't you hate that?! He must move the entire cabinet out to get the folder. After sliding the cabinet away from the wall, he notices a board covering something up. Curiosity killed the cat as they say. After removing the board, there is an old door that seems to have been abandoned. Upon opening it and crawling inside, Craig is sucked into its chamber and looks through the eyes of actor John Malkovich. The door turned out to be a portal into the back of his head. Bizarre! The only catch is that just when this experience is getting really exciting (it only lasts 15 minutes), your body is dispensed from its place and you fall out on to the New Jersey turnpike. BIZARRE! Yes, this is all true. If it sounds silly and unbelievable, that's the point. The film drives a wedge between the boundaries of convincing fantasy and magnifying stupidity. This is all done with the feeling of inhaling laughing gas. Needless to say that actor John Malkovich finds out what is happening and tries to stop it. You see, Craig and Maxine have started a business where people can enter the portal for 15 minutes and pay $200 for the experience of being someone else. Through it all is an explanation provided by the office boss (Orson Bean) of how the portal works and how people can become transferred from its perception or be imprisoned by its black hole like draw on human beings. John Cusack is quite an actor. He said for years he wanted to avoid the trappings of a career enjoyed by people like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford. It other words, super stardom. He, like Nicolas Cage in the early days of his career, has instead opted for the quirky roles in Hollywood. The off beat stuff and doing a convincing job in any role he chooses to play. He is one of the best actors in the business without many people knowing it and I'm sure that drawing attention away from himself is exactly the way Cusack likes it. The two key female performances in the film are 180 degrees apart. Cameron Diaz is sweet and innocent. Sort of the naive victim of the whole thing before her fate is revealed at the end. Catherine Keener is just the opposite. As mentioned above, her portrayal of Maxine is that of a foul woman with a witch like personality. You know her character is just the sort of enigma that will come away without so much as a scratch. Oscar nominations will be fourth coming but the film will suffer in the truly high profile categories such as best picture. While on many "ten best" lists for 1999, the film has a tailor made look of trying too hard to look original like 1998's 'The Truman Show' did. Both films share the concept of character confinement before the truth is revealed but both show how the human experience can be dream like in nature and while 'Being John Malkovich' is a good film with things not seen before, it still seems a bit aloof in the way its resolution comes down but it will be regarded as GREAT film making only by the most hard core of fans who like fantasy films. Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith

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