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Being John Malkovich (1999)

Ever wanted to be someone else? Now you can

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 112 minutes

UK Certificate: 15


Even Alice – she of Wonderland fame – would probably have put her foot down and said ‘this is just too darn weird’ had that rabbit’s burrow led her directly into the head of Hollywood luvvy John Malkovich.

Still, at least innocent little Alice would surely have resisted the temptation to share her discovery with the world at $200 a ticket. It’s a temptation that’s just too much to resist for struggling puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) and scary office totty Maxine (Catherine Keener) when a portal into Malkovich’s noggin is discovered behind a filing cabinet. Whoever makes the short trip down the tunnel beyond the office wall is treated to 15 minutes of ‘being’ John Malkovich, before being gobbed out onto a New Jersey lay-by.

Before long, Craig’s animal-loving wife Lotte (a brilliantly frumpified Cameron Diaz) also becomes obsessed with the Malkovich experience, and gradually the lives of all involved – not least the Malkster himself – are plunged into an unprecedented level of all-out weirdness.

Writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, who went on to create the similarly marvellous ‘Adaptation’, bring to life a tale so mind-boggling it almost becomes credible. Purely for being so inventive and original ‘Being John Malkovich’ deserves applause, but the fact that it’s also GOOD is a whopping bonus.

Both Cusack and Diaz are virtually unrecognisable from their normally clean-cut attractive selves, yet both manage to pull off arguably two of their finest performances. Keener, too, is fascinatingly cynical and sarcastic as the object of a few more affections than can possibly be healthy. But it’s Malkovich himself who steals the show as a parodied, tongue-in-cheek version of his own reputation for being slightly stuck-up. It’s a daring role for Malkovich to take, but one that pays off wonderfully.

It's Got: Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich!

It Needs: A more lenient rating – is there really anything in this that merits a ‘15’ certificate?

DVD Extras John Horatio Malkovich’s ‘Dance of Despair and Disillusionment’, 7 ½ floor orientation, TV Spots, Spike Jonze interview and photo album, theatrical trailer and production notes. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


Curiouser and curiouser – and very, very funny.