Being John Malkovich (1999) – Ever Wanted to Be Someone Else?

Charlie Kaufman, he is a myth and a genius. Every film he wrote always have a felt-wildly experience but full of imagination. There is a world where we never know how someone’s head filled. I want to know what exactly is in Kaufman’s mind himself. “Adaptation.“, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind“, “Synecdoche, New York“, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, and now, “Being John Malkovich”. This is the theatrical debut of Spike Jonze, one of the underrated directors ever existed. In addition to the weird screenplay written by Kaufman, Jonze is one of the most unique directors from most. Moreover, this is a 1999 release film with strange titles but very comical as well.

Tells the story of John Cusack as Craig Schwartz, a puppeteer who is not too successful behind his talent. He lives with his wife, Cameron Diaz as Lotte Schwartz, who very obsessed with all kinds of pets. Until now, both of them have lived together in the same roof for a long time. It’s just that they still think about why they can have children unless Craig gets a real job and has a salary. Continue to fail and fail, Craig finally gets a decent job besides being a puppeteer. He worked as an archivist at a company owned by Orson Bean as Dr. Lester. The company is located in a building in New York on the floor 7½ with a very low ceiling. That’s this floor is located between the 7th and 8th floors.

At the company, Craig met Catherine Keener as Maxine Lund. From the start of their meeting, Craig had a crush on Maxine despite he has a wife and trying to keep approaching Maxine. Until one day, Craig found a small door with a strange hole behind the cabinet of his work. The hole is a portal into John Malkovich’s mind. Yes, I’m not kidding. Malkovich as himself who tells about his daily life and public image through his perspective.

“Being John Malkovich” is a strange movie at least. Strange even this movie, especially at the end of the movie, impressed me. This film takes the theme of how to be someone else even controlling the person and John Malkovich was the experiment. Previously, Malkovich had suggested that it would be better if Tom Cruise just was the main star together with an unspecified producer suggesting Jonze should rewrite the script. However, Malkovich really liked the script regardless of he refused so many times when it comes to the main star.

Behind this dark comedy and disturbing story, this film holds tight an obsession. An obsession where there is no confidence in each of us so that we become proud to people in our dream. Like for example one of the characters is very depressed about being fat or ugly, he prefers to be someone else rather than acknowledging reality. Valid for Craig too, obsessed with his work as a puppeteer but his obsession with Maxine can’t stop his ego. Every time he plays a puppet show, the performance reflects Craig’s reflection where he can’t find anything in himself. He refused to be himself.

Craig’s obsession wasn’t only half in reaching Maxine but he also locked his wife along with his pet chimp. His mission can only make love with Maxine using John Malkovich’s body. The story doesn’t only focus on Craig’s obsession but from Lotte’s perspective as well. Lotte wasn’t much different from Craig besides being obsessed with the figure of John Malkovich and Maxine. She also even questioned herself and her sexuality after tracing the mind of Malkovich deeply. Then, what’s this film actually told? Is it about being whom perfect? Looking for each other’s identity? Heavy obsession? Unconfident? Seeing the world from a different perspective? Why are people obsessed with Malkovich?

Even John Malkovich wants to be Malkovich himself. The scene when Malkovich traced the contents of his mind was such a scene in this movie. In essence, all excessive things aren’t healthy or it can be dissatisfaction in each person’s normal. However, we only refuse to be who we are. Not to be someone else, not to become Malkovich, not to accept reality. We just like to see the world from another person’s minds because everyone is different. It’s just a matter of complex a so-philosophical and deep-like if you want to analyze the film as deeply as possible. I really want to be Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze. What exactly were they both thinking about?

John Malkovich appeared extraordinary as himself. The can throw scene is even amazing as one of the greatest improvised scenes in movies. Apart from his improv, he also plays a lonely character but is far from himself in the public eye. Cameron Diaz appeared with such beauty whatsoever. Same with Catherine Keener, the cunning but tempting. “Being John Malkovich” is clearly an interesting masterpiece with a unique and strange concept but not everyone would enjoy it. Filled with a twist but smart dark humor, this film never had the slightest bit of boredom. The movie has a lot of ambiguity and theory but it’s a sin if I spoil it. The story of “getting stuck in someone else’s body” is indeed nothing new but the film nailed it best.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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