Friday, October 14, 2011

Being John Malkovich

Year: 1999
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Genre: Comedy, Drama

For anyone who hasn't seen this movie yet, I suggest you do soon. In this post I desire to talk about elements of the movie which are spoilers so I certainly don't want to ruin any of that for you. Suffice it to say, the movie is a very odd romantic triangle, or maybe even a quadrangle, but probably just a triangle. While there are tons of movies like that out there not many of them approach the whole deal the way Being John Malkovich does.

The film starts us off with a very unusual couple. The woman is a caretaker of animals and the other is a puppeteer, at least he wishes to be. As there is no real interest in puppets in this day and age, he finally forces himself to get a not "dream" job, which is office work. However, at his office he discovers a small door behind a filing cabinet, goes inside, and is transported into the mind of a man - John Malkovich. Okay, from here on out is spoiler territory.

I really was confused by the idea of a portal to someone's mind just being in an office, but it's the reality of the movie. In a way, it reminds me a lot of magical realism, where everything is just up front no matter how crazy it may otherwise seem. It became very strange and almost disturbing when they abused their ability to have Malkovich as purely a vessel. I quickly got over that though as the actual Malkovich character drifted into the background as he was overrun by the main character and his wife.

I was mostly interested in the relationship between the leading man Craig, his wife Lotte, and the business partner Maxine. Through the proxy of Malkovich's body, Maxine falls for both Lotte and Craig. What most intrigued me was the point when Lotte realized why being in Malkovich pleased her so - that she felt the strong desire to be male. Whether this was a valid thought or mostly just one of her little flings is unknown, but it certainly seems true she loved Maxine. And of course, Maxine loved her... but through Malkovich. I don't know. I just really loved the weird genderplay and relationships going on. That, both the husband and wife would lust after the same woman certainly isn't the usual story in movies so I appreciated it.

Interestingly, none of these characters are really appealing. They all have their problems and all do terrible things at points in the film. Of course, in all actuality, Maxine is probably the worst by never really being a reliable person but both Craig and Lotte adore her all the same. Anyway, the characters are all generally screwed up but it was still an enjoyable movie. It's hard for me to say I usually like movies where every character is one you'd like to yell at to stop doing what they're doing.

So there's some brief thoughts on the film. I really love the weird love triangle and unusual story. I'll probably watch it again soon.

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