I recently turned twenty. After battling through the bittersweet feelings of aging, a newfound existential angst and a sudden realisation of one’s mortality, I found it in myself to truly cherish this milestone and discover this treasure of a film from the year I was born.
Being John Malkovich is exactly what it says on the tin. An avid puppeteer, Craig Schwartz (played by John Cusack), stumbles upon a portal leading directly into the mind and body of Hollywood actor, John Malkovich (played by John Malkovich). What follows is a queer ride through the bizarre back alleys of humanity with enough surrealist contrivance to whisk your foresight of the plot into stiff peaks. Top performances are given by the rest of the cast, including an unrecognisable Cameron Diaz and the brilliant Catherine Keener. It’s an impressive debut from director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman, who would go on to make many other greats such as Her and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
This meta masterpiece certainly seems to have aged better than I. There is a refreshingly proud progressive narrative that weaves its heavy-duty themes of transfiguration with absurdist humour. Is it a comedy? Perhaps in the Shakespearian sense. The sweet streak of sadness exists somewhere between the Coen Brothers and Terry Gilliam. It’s an out-and-about feminist movie that deserves more recognition.
With the wackiness aside, Being John Malkovich is strangely poetic and meditative. The characters’ feelings of frustration, self-loathing and childish desires draw parallel to the cusp of adolescent anguish into millennial adulthood that the film would experience, if indeed it was “born” in the year 1999. So relax, put your feet up and go on this ethereal trip into the mind and soul of John Malkovich.
Available on Netflix (and on BoB).
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