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Being John Malkovich (R)
Criterion; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Universal; Wikipedia

Caution: potential spoilers.

Well, I wasn't quite sure whether I wanted to file this under "weird" or "art" or both of the above. But I decided "weird" is a better fit. Anyway, the movie came out in 1999, and I actually got to see it in a theater, at the time. Then I think I didn't see it again until 2016, when I got it on DVD, and which is when I'm writing this review. I gotta say, I didn't remember much beyond the basic premise, but I knew I liked it a lot. Watching it now... I'm not sure, but I think maybe I liked it slightly less than I did when I first saw it, almost seventeen years ago. But there's a lot that I don't remember about my specific reaction to various plot elements or characters, back then....

Anyway, there's this puppeteer named Craig Schwartz (John Cusack), who is really good at what he does, though I think (and this is something I will hardly ever say about any kind of artist) maybe he takes it a little too seriously. And he's terribly unsuccessful at it, financially. So his wife, Lottie (Cameron Diaz), wants him to find a more conventional job. You know, just until the puppeteering thing works out. He applies for a filing job at a company that has its offices on the 7 and a half floor of an office building. (I'm not sure how they fit even half a floor between the seventh and eighth floors. Despite the fact that the ceiling is so low everyone constantly has to bend over when they walk around, it just doesn't seem like it would be possible. But just go with it. It's all part of the movie's charming weirdness.) His boss is a guy named Dr. Lester (Orson Bean, whom I know best from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman).

Craig meets a woman named Maxine (Catherine Keener), who also works on floor 7½, and... well, he tries to strike up a conversation with her. She immediately assumes he's hitting on her, which even now seemed to me to be kind of unfair, so I have to believe that the first time I saw the movie, I probably thought she was rather bitchy. (In the years since then, I've learned more about the kind of shit women put up with from a lot of men, of which I'm sure I had the barest fraction of a notion about, back then. Even so, Maxine still seems... unusually abrasive, and not necessarily just toward men, as well as very self-centered.) Anyway, regardless of whether my thoughts on Maxine (now or then) were justified, it turns out I was wrong about Craig. I mean, I don't know for sure that he was hitting on her at first, but it comes to seem more likely, as the movie progresses. Because he does clearly become obsessed with her, and... not as piteous as he first seemed. She remains disinterested in him, until one day he discovers a small door in his office, which was hidden behind a filing cabinet. Behind the door, there's a tunnel, which Craig crawls through, and finds himself seeing through the eyes of John Malkovich. This lasts for 15 minutes, after which he falls from the sky on a roadside. When he tells Maxine about it, of course she thinks he's crazy. But later, unaccountably, she suddenly believes him, and decides to start a business with him, charging people to go through the portal and be Malkovich for fifteen minutes at a time. Craig also tells Lottie about the portal, and she tries it. After that, she becomes obsessed with being Malkovich. And when she meets Maxine, she becomes obsessed with her, too. (It seems odd to me that people automatically fall in love/obsession with her, considering her personality. But still... I guess there kind of is something about her.)

Anyway, a lot more happens, but I don't want to reveal any more of the plot. The movie is every bit as weird as I remembered, and probably even funnier than I remembered. Undoubtedly, it's more fucked up than I remembered, in a lot of ways. But if you like mindscrews (and I do, as long as they're well executed), then this is definitely a movie you need to check out. It's just... it's fascinatingly bizarre, and one of the most unique movies I've ever seen.


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