Being John Malkovich (1999)

being john malkovich poster 1999 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Original movie


Movie Info

Movie Name:   Being John Malkovich

Studio:   Propaganda Films

Genre(s):   Comedy

Release Date(s):   October 22, 1999

MPAA Rating:   R

being john malkovich lotte craig maxine john cusack catherine keener cameron diaz

The weirdest love triangle (square?) in cinematic history

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a man with a dream but no future.  Craig is a puppeteer hoping to bring his art to the people, but when he’s forced to take a filing job for Dr. Lester (Orson Bean) on the 7½ floor of the Mertin-Flemmer Building, Craig discovers something that could change his life.  Behind a filing cabinet and in a little door there is a hole…a hole to the mind of actor John Malkovich.  Now Craig is discovering a new source of income and a reason to be with his new crush Maxine Lund (Catherine Keener), but his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) is also finding a lot out about Maxine as well.  Lotte and Craig both want to be John Malkovich, and Maxine wants whatever is the most fun and profit…Malkovich might not get a choice.

Directed by Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich is an art house comedy.  The film was released to critical acclaim and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (Keener).  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #611).

I can remember reading a story about proposal for Being John Malkovich and thinking…what?  I saw it in the theater and loved it, and then I saw it multiple times after its release.  It’s been a few years since I saw the movie, but the movie still is strong and contains tons of nuances in the story and performance that can keep you coming back.

being john malkovich enters own portal

Malkovich, Malkovich? Malkovich…

A lot of the strength in the movie is the script by Charlie Kaufman.  The movie’s script should never have lost to American Beauty because it was so original and so smart.  Kaufman wrote the story with Malkovich as the focus before even talking to John Malkovich as being the star of the weirdness.  The story has a lot of fun with pronouns (I love you as him but not her etc) and a lot of the rom-com clichés are turned on their ear as a result of the bizarre set-up which never lets up and reaches a satisfying ending.

The cast latches on to the smart script.  John Cusack gives up his pretty boy image for his depressing, obsessive puppeteer and the same is true to for Cameron Diaz and her frizzy-haired Lotte.  Catherine Keener really excels in the movie as Maxine who seems to be playing her own game through the whole film and taking the weirdness of the situation in stride to see how she can benefit.  Despite not getting a lot of play for his own role, John Malkovich is amazing.  He has to play himself as a really strange guy, but then also has to play himself as John Cusack acting like John Malkovich (which he nails).  Orson Bean and Mary Kay Place fill out the cast as employees on the 7 ½ floor of the Mertin-Flemmer Building.

being john malkovich doorway orson bean

Who doesn’t want to be John Malkovich?

Spike Jonze kicked off his movie career with this film and brings a music video edginess to the project.  The movie is rather low budget, but Jonze really stylizes the shooting and visuals in the film.  Scenes like the multiple Malkovichs and the trips through Malkovich’s subconscious really show a style, but additional “real world” scenes like the documentary on Malkovich’s puppeteering and the whole 7½ floor capture the humor.

Being John Malkovich is a great film and has held up better than other movies that were more acclaimed.  The movie is unique and original, but the movie is also attainable and funny for those who aren’t into “art” pictures.  It is one of those pictures that gets the humor and balances it with a strong story that has a lot to take in (allowing for multiple viewings).  Malkovich still must be seen!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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