From classic to ultra weird?
Yep. A puppeteer down on his luck takes a menial office job on floor 7 1/2 of an office building where everyone’s weird and there’s a portal to jump inside John Malkovich’s head.
Well, there’s more to it than that. John Cusack plays Craig Schwartz (said puppeteer), a guy helplessly devoted to a craft no one gives two hoots about, and on the advice of his animal-loving wife Lotte (a magnificently unrecognisable Cameron Diaz), he goes in search of a proper job. This leads him to Lester Corp, located on floor 7 and a half in a large New York office building, a secretary who mishears every single thing he says and a harmless yet lecherous boss. Somehow, he lands a filing job and meets Maxine. Instantly, he’s enraptured, whilst she couldn’t care less. Then, he stumbles across a small door whilst trying to recapture a file that’d escaped behind a cabinet. The door leads into John Malkovich’s head, allowing him to see through Malkovich’s eyes and experience his existence, before promptly dumping him on the New Jersey turnpike after fifteen minutes.
I’ll say it again. ……Muh??
It doesn’t get any less weird. Maxine and Craig decide to strike up a business, charging $200 for people to use the Malkovich portal. It doesn’t stop there; Craig and Lotte develop an overpowering lust for Maxine, but she only cares about them when they’re in Malkovich’s head, overpowering him and assuming control. The man himself finally realises something’s up and……well, that’ll do for now. It’s exactly the kind of utterly obtuse concept you’d expect from the writer of Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, but it’s still Charlie Kaufman’s most recognised work despite its craziness. It’s constantly surprising throughout, and never really lets up. Only real problem with that is that you’re essentially bombarded with it’s off-kilter nature, and that can get a little disorientating.
Mostly a winner, though?
Predominantly. Diaz and Cusack do well in their weird, socially bereft roles, but the film belongs to Malkovich. He’s fantastic playing a fictionalized version of himself; brilliantly off centre, hilarious and absorbing. Taking the film at face value isn’t difficult, but keeping up with it can be. Then again, anything Kaufman comes up with always benefits from repeat viewings.