Weird & Deep – if that’s what you like in films you’ll enjoy this one; if not, you might as well stop reading now! (By the time this gets to print you’ll probably have to wait for the video anyway!)
From 1st-time director Spike Jonz, whose work up until now has been as a director of pop videos, & produced by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipes, this is a film which is highly original & hard to classify.
Craig (John Cusack) is a puppeteer with a habit of living out his fantasies with puppets made to look like people in his life. Unhappily married to frumpy Lotte (Cameron Diaz as you’ve never seen her before), he is desperately & unsuccessfully trying to have an office affair with sassy hard-nosed Maxine (Catherine Keener).
While looking for a dropped file at work he stumbles across a womb-like tunnel that turns out to be a portal into the mind of John Malkovich (who plays himself). This enables him to experience everything Malkovich does for 15 minutes before being dumped beside the New Jersey Turnpike. (And no – I haven’t been taking drugs again; this really is the plot!)
When Lotte tries it, she decides she’s really a man trapped in a woman’s body (or something) & also takes a shine to Maxine. Maxine fancies Lotte too – but only when Lotte is being John Malkovich! Meanwhile Craig discovers he is able to control Malkovich from inside the way he does his puppets, & when Malkovich himself gets involved things really start to get strange…
This is definitely an ideas movie – designed to make you think as much as to entertain. We thought it was largely about Identity; how we define who we are through others – lovers, spouses, children, celebrities – even to the extent of vicariously living our lives through them; & about how we can mercilessly manipulate the people in our lives to meet our own needs. These are however only theories!
Despite being somewhat hard to follow & a bit silly in places, I enjoyed this film – it’s intelligent, thought provoking & actually very funny. But it is weird!