I can remember the first time I saw Being John Malkovich. It was 1999, and I was a sophomore in college. Gas was ninety-seven cents a gallon and I didn’t have a cell-phone. I walked up to the local one-screen theater for a late afternoon showing, and watched something that I could never have fully anticipated or expected. Once it was over, and my mind was left in a dizzy-tizzy, I staggered out of the theater, went to the coffee shop next door, got a drink, went back to the box-office, and bought a ticket for the next showing that evening. I remember calling my dad the following morning and passionately explaining the plot to him – nonsense, he barked! That doesn’t make any sense, was his reply.
But of course it doesn’t make any sense, and of course I wasn’t explaining it properly – but I loved how a few weeks later, my father was the one calling me in my dorm room to tell me how he and my mother had just seen the film and that they had no words for how original and exciting and daring and funny it was. Because that’s what Being John Malkovich is – it’s all that and so much more, and it’s that type of movie that allows the viewer to let their imagination run wild alongside of what’s being shown on screen.
It’s pointless to discuss the tonally perfect performances from the ridiculous cast, or that Spike Jonze’s direction is otherworldly (it was his feature debut and he’d rightly be Oscar nominated), or that Charlie Kaufman’s script kick-started a sub-genre mini-wave of extra-heady films that dared to be different while still attracting big-name talent both in front of and behind the camera.
Review by Nick Clement