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BEING JOHN MALKOVICH

SYNOPSIS:
Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a puppeteer whom the world shuns, and whose marriage to Lotte (Cameron Diaz) has become rather dull - even the chimp and the dog and the bird and the other animals Lotte the petshop employee brings home fail to lift life above survival levels. Lotte urges him to get a job; he does, in a strange filing company on a 'half way between floors' of a large building, where he meets the enigmatic and lustable but unavailable (to him) Maxine (Catherine Keener) and also discovers a secret door that whisks him inside the brain of famous actor John Malkovich. Things take a bit of a turn for Craig now, and with Maxine's help, he turns the 'portal' to Malkovich into a business. But that's just the start of it.

"Being John Malkovich is simply the most original, brilliant film of the year! Marvellously entertaining and overflowing with surprises, the inventive, intelligent script never falters; there are new ideas and twists when you least expect them. It's like embarking on a wild adventure without knowing where you're headed. First time screen-writer Charlie Kaufman doesn't just take one novel idea and milk it dry, but cleverly allows one radical concept to precipitate the next, and coupled with the Spike Jonze's skilful direction and Carter Burwell's inspired music, delivers a witty and extremely funny film. From the fabulous opening puppetry sequences right through to the satisfying conclusion, here is a unique work that is complete in every way. This is also John Cusack's best performance ever he becomes this extraordinary character who longs to feel differently by being inside another skin. When we first see him he looks a bit like I feel first thing in the morning. He is positively grey and a bus could have run over him, as he lies asleep in bed with a white cockatoo perched on his head squawking 'Wake up, wake up!' We immediately get a sense of the wacky environment; Cameron Diaz is almost unrecognisable as his animal-obsessed wife. Catherine Keener is a knock-out as the entrepreneurial Maxine, while John Malkovich is absolutely extraordinary. I hesitate to reveal too much about the plot, as much of the joy is in discovering it for yourself. But I am compelled to alert you to the scene peopled exclusively with Malkoviches. The delicious lead up, execution and delivery of this scene is one of the most ingenious I have ever seen. Take the trip of a life time to Being John Malkovich; it's an amazing, bizarre and surreal thrill ride you will never forget."
Louise Keller

"The most satisfying aspect of this fabulously freaky film is the deadpan tone that envelops its surreal surface with a leather casing of worldweariness, making it seem more real than it really is. It's directed as drama, which provides us with the freedom to discover all the humour and the all the invention for ourselves. We go with it and we grow with it. The absurd concept is so neatly packaged into the character and plot development that we hardly shudder as it slips its pineapple into our movie receptacle. The script is a great example of a writer's imagination galloping and jumping over all the usual movie making hurdles erected by studios. A novice screenwriter has the benefit of ignorance - the freedom to ignore the rules. But if the script is forever inventive and surprising, the direction is a perfect match for it, always keeping us in touch with the darkest sides of the scenario before us. Malkovich, who gave the filmmakers full licence to do whatever they wanted with his persona, is the perfect choice for this, his enigmatic, multi-sided character an ideal vehicle and ideal vessel for the wacko stuff that goes through his head. Performances are all brilliant, edgy and the characters are not only unique but totally credible, so nothing is wasted or contrived. Outright funny and incredibly engaging, the comedy in Being John Malkovich, as in most humour, is often based on pain (failure, rejection, confusion) with elements of fantasy that take flight - to take us aloft. It is a great film. Don't hesitate to see it."
Andrew L. Urban

"If the pace and humour of this brilliantly clever sex-comedy-fantasy-sci-fi had maintained the intensity of its first 20 minutes oxygen masks might have been called for by the end. It doesn't but that hardly matters in what turns out to be the off-beat delight of the year; a film so full of ideas and surreal humour that your faith is restored in cinema's ability to excite us with that too-rare commodity of originality. Part of this film's charm lies in its appearance of being a stream of consciousness, as if it's making itself up as it goes along and somehow scoring a bullseyes at every turn. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman says he wrote this without an outline or clear sense of direction and his free form approach pays exciting dividends as we're taken to the company office situated in the 5&1/2 feet separating the 7th and 8th floors and whisked off into the mind and body of Malkovich. Kaufman's delightfully skewed vision is complemented by inspired non-type casting of Cameron Diaz as the dowdy wife and Catherine Keener as the sexy, sassy-talking object of Cusack's overheated libido. Cusack, whose stature grows with every role, is wonderful as the puppeteer who choreographs his creations in dark and twisted scenrios which inspire disinterest and outright hostility from passers-by. This might have been a one-joke affair but the twists and turns (especially down by the New Jersey turnpike) keep it humming and constantly surprising. When was the last time you went to a movie and heard a silver-haired grandfather type (Orson Bean, hilarious as Dr Lester) say "if I was 80 years younger" before giving a detailed description of his sexual fantasies. This is also a film with plenty of heart; one which doesn't throw its oddball characters around simply for amusement but uses them to touch on foibles and neuroses of the human condition. It's a beautifully written and marvellously acted piece of sustained absurdity which, come Oscar time, deserves to be among the most nominated films."
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

See Jimmy Thomson's interview in Venice with

JOHN MALKOVICH

BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (M)
(US)

CAST: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, Earl Brown, Carlos Jacott, Willie Garson, Bryne Piven, Gregory Sporleder, Charlie Sheen and John Malkovich

DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze

PRODUCER: Michael Stipe, Sandy Stern, Steve Golin, Vincent Landay

SCRIPT: Charlie Kaufman

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lance Acord

EDITOR: Eric Zumbrunnen

MUSIC: Carter Burwell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: K.K. Barrett

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: July 26, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video







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