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Being John Malkovich

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This was a bizarre movie.  The premise is that by going through this crawlway, you end up inside the brain of John Malkovich for fifteen minutes.  Then you're spit out beside the New Jersey Turnpike.

The main character, John Cusack, is a frustrated puppeteer.  Sort of the starving artist type.  His girlfriend, Cameron Diaz, (man, she's nearly unrecognizable) is a very New Age type, and an animal lover.  Their apartment has several animals, including a chimpanzee.

At the beginning of the movie, Diaz convinces Cusack that he should ignore his ideals long enough to get a job of any kind.  Since he has such dexterous fingers, he applies for a job where he files all day.  But wait, there's more.

The job is at a building where they have a 7 1/2 floor.  This half floor is sandwiched between two normal floors and is only four feet high, so everyone walks around bent way over.  But most of the nameless characters have been working there awhile, so they act as though it's old hat and everything is normal.  I'm pretty sure this was thrown into the movie early just to get you in a bizarre frame of mind.  It's hilarious to see little doorways, and short chairs, so you don't hit your head.   Desks that reach almost to the ceiling.  Almost normal office furniture looks bizarre with all of the hunched-over people using it.

Catherine Keener plays another person working on the 7 1/2 floor and Cusack has a crush on her.  When Cusack finds the portal he tells Keener and they decide to start a business, treating the portal as sort of an surreptitious amusement ride.

That little twist struck me as sort of odd.  I can see that Keener's character would try to exploit it for money.  But treating it as an amusement ride seemed quite a stretch.  It lended itself to a couple of sight gags, where people are lined up in the four foot hallway waiting their turn.  And it gives Malkovich a way to track them down and catch them.  So I guess it ended up being a plot device.  Still, it seemed a little out of place.

John Malkovich is a really good sport about the entire thing.  He gets to do some pretty strange stuff at one point.  We get to see snippets of what his life might be like.  He has several people who mistakenly think he played some role in a movie (I can't remember the role right now.)

Charlie Sheen has a bit part as himself as Malkovich's friend.  He has some good lines.

There's one other character who knows about the portal.  He's used to tell us some of its properties and sets up the ending.  We learn that he discovered the portal, but doesn't know how it got there.  As usual with these metaphysical movies, you never hear how he first found all of this information about the portal.  That verisimilitude gap has always annoyed me.

A very bizarre story idea.  It uses lots of comedy to study metaphysical ideas.   On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Matinee with Dinner.

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Last modified: June 14, 2004
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