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Thursday, November 11, 1999
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Volume 65, Issue 58

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Intelligent casting makes Being John Malkovich a superb film


Being John Malkovich

Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener
Running Time: 112
Rated: R

Grade: A


By Rattaya Nimibutr
Daily Cougar Staff

Perhaps one of the best and most original movies in theaters now is Being John Malkovich,  an intelligent and bizarre comedy about wanting to be someone else -- in this case, the beloved thespian John Malkovich.

This film doesn't work like you might expect. There is no script in which some actor portrays Malkovich's childhood. Nor will you find a scene in which Malkovich wreaks mass havoc such as in Con Air or portrays a snothead as in Dangerous Liaisons.


Photo courtesy of Gramercy Pictures


Being John Malkovich, a beautifully well-acted film, stars Orson Bean and Cameron Diaz (center), among others.

As you've already been warned, this movie is bizarre and totally original. It is directed by Spike Jonze, the directing guru of music videos, film shorts and commercials, who was recently awarded for his work in Fatboy Slim's "Praise You." This film explores the outrageous borders of desire, humor, wit and passion.

Being John Malkovich stars John Cusack (Pushing Tin) as puppeteer prodigy Craig Schwartz who is hanging on by his last strings to make money. He lives in a small apartment with wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz), a pet store employee who literally brings her work home.

Craig decides to get a job at LesterCorp. as a document-filer who discovers a 

portal -- a narrow passageway that someone can enter to go inside the head of John Malkovich for a limited amount of time.

Sounds crazy, but that's the whole underlying humor of this film. The portal allows the person to see what Malkovich sees, and Craig becomes obsessed with his discovery.

In addition, he attempts to draw attraction from co-worker sexpot Maxine (Catherine Keener). As the film progresses, the situation becomes more out of control as Craig loses himself in the world of being Malkovich.

This is a comedic fantasia; the impossibility of the situation doesn't come off as a cheesy, unrealistic excuse to make a movie. It may seem unrealistic, but one can go beyond that to enjoy the relevant humor that stems from it.

Cusack as Craig is extremely righteous in his role. His obsession in the film is seen through his actions, and Cusack is able to pull off neurotic tics like a charm.

Equally appealing is Diaz (There's Something About Mary) as Lotte, the maniac wife who also becomes plagued with the passageway into the mind of Malkovich. 

This is quite a different role for Diaz, who is beginning to fall prey to the Meg Ryan syndrome: She seems to get caught in nothing but cutesy romantic comedies. But as Lotte, she showcases her comedic side both cleverly and favorably.

Being John Malkovich is simply an ideal movie for those who look for humor and originality. It is bizarre, fun and hilarious, and the acting is top notch. Director Jonze hits another jackpot.
 

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