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With: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Charlie Sheen, Mary Kay Place, Orson Bean
Written by: Charlie Kaufman
Directed by: Spike Jonze
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexuality
Running Time: 112
Date: 02/09/1999

Being John Malkovich (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Monkeying With Malkovich

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Being John Malkovich is wonderful and inspired weirdness. It's the feature directorial debut of Spike Jonze, who directed such classic music videos as the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" and Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet" and appeared in the recent Three Kings. Being John Malkovich shows that Jonze has got scrappy talent to burn, pacing this weird film well and styling it with a grimy look, sharp performances, and clearly shot action.

Although John Malkovich plays himself in Being John Malkovich, this movie isn't really about him. John Cusack is the star, playing a puppeteer who gets a job as a filing clerk on the 7-1/2th floor of an office building. There he discovers a portal leading into John Malkovich's brain. Accompanied by his sexy co-worker Catherine Keener, he makes a business out of his discovery, charging lonely people $200 each for the chance to be John Malkovich. But when Cusack's wife (Cameron Diaz -- with frizzy dark hair), a good-hearted animal lover with a chimp, enters the portal it changes his life.

All the actors in this movie are outstanding. And Malkovich especially does a wonderful job of walking the line between playing his character straight and offering a parody. More amazing though is that Being John Malkovich never seems to run out of places to go with its seemingly one-joke idea. It just keeps getting weirder, funnier, and more fascinating. The puppet work (by Phillip Huber and company) is astounding as well. This movie was co-produced by R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe and deserves a real cult following.

In 2012, Being John Malkovich was released in a Blu-Ray edition from the Criterion Collection.

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