Taking too long? Close loading screen.
Connect with us

Tech

Being John Malkovich Is Better Now Than It Was in 1999

Published

on

John Cusack and Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich.
John Cusack and Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich.
Photo: USA Films

Being John Malkovich—the brainchild of writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze—is still one of the great modern American films. However, what it meant to me at the time of release is not what it means to me now. And looking at it in a macro sense, it represents a lot more than just a perfect collaboration.

In 2020, 1999’s Being John Malkovich feels like it was the beginning of a transitional time in cinema. A time when the idea was still king, but the brand was becoming increasingly important. This was before the modern superhero wave. Before the turn of the millennium. It was a time to look both back and look ahead. When you do that you realize if “Being John Malkovich” was “Being John Smith” and the person whose head everyone went into wasn’t actually a real celebrity playing themselves, the whole thing loses some flair. The idea works in a large part because Malkovich is well-known. In this case, he’s the franchise. He is the Marvel. The Star Wars. Without him, the movie is probably still interesting, but his presence and name brand elevate it.

How the hell does Being John Malkovich exist? Twenty-one years later, that’s a question I still ask myself. That something so audacious, so ludicrous, so brilliant was actually made and released was, and remains, a miracle. Plus, it has aged beautifully—timeless inspiration that fills every second of the film. As time moves on, we can continually analyze and recontextualize the story through society, cinema, or personal experience. It changes for us, though it doesn’t change at all. It’s that damn good. Or, maybe, we’re all just vessels and someone new is along for the ride.

Catherine Keener is a powerhouse in Being John Malkovich.
Catherine Keener is a powerhouse in Being John Malkovich.
Photo: USA Films

On the off chance you haven’t seen Being John Malkovich, here’s the quick recap. It’s about a puppeteer named Craig (John Cusack) who discovers a portal that allows someone to become actor John Malkovich (who plays himself) for 15 minutes. Craig uses the discovery to win over the object of his desire, a co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener), whom Craig’s wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) eventually falls in love with too. The film then becomes a struggle between Craig and Lotte as they both battle for Maxine’s affections from inside the body of John Malkovich.

Because Malkovich is a film of transformation released in a time of transition, to accurately discuss it today requires some talk about the past. I first saw Being John Malkovich on October 15, 1999. How do I remember that date? Because I went from an early screening of Malkovich to the opening night of David Fincher’s Fight Club. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever had a better double feature of two brand new movies, and I probably never will. At that time, age 19, what struck my most about Malkovich was just how bold it was; the sheer audacity of its premise, the incredible precision of its execution, the bravery of John Malkovich to not just allow the movie to exist, but to star in it and give a performance for the ages.

Today, those things all still amaze me, but they hardly do the film justice. They’re the thoughts of a teenager just learning about movies. The kind of person who later that night would think Fight Club was so cool for being so macho. Boy, did I not get it.

How does someone come up with this shit?
How does someone come up with this shit?
Photo: USA Films

Watching Malkovich as an adult is certainly a different experience. At first, it’s a story of “the grasser is always greener” as both Craig and Lotte find the experience of being a rich and famous actor fulfilling. Lotte’s revelation goes even further as she believes she’s not a woman, but a trans man and craves the masculinity of Malkovich. Craig, on the other hand, uses the actor to become the ultimate version of himself, eventually taking over Malkovich’s body like it was an elaborate puppet. Craig gets fame, fortune, and, for a time, the desires of Maxine.

For both Craig and Lotte, the idea of being someone else is better at first. In reality, all that pain and lust only leads them to discover their true selves; Lotte is not the cis woman she thought she was and Craig may, in fact, be the creative genius he thought he was but doesn’t have the nerve to achieve it on his own. The realities of life set in once they give everything of themselves and while one finds happiness, the other finds only pain.

That achieving a dream, then letting it go, can lead to enlightenment is a very humbling idea and yet thinking about the film in only those terms still somehow feels inadequate. That’s just one opinion dealing with one aspect of the film; there’s so much more to consider. For example, the whole notion of self and immortality that the idea of a “vessel” raises. Is John Malkovich ever really himself? Are any of us? Then there’s the fascinating rumination on celebrity versus artistic ability. Craig was obviously a talented puppeteer, but he only experienced true success when he became the already-famous Malkovich. Was he actually talented or was Malkovich merely popular?

Malkovich, Malkovich.
Malkovich, Malkovich.
Photo: USA Films

The film is an ocean of ideas, concepts, and discussions all handled very delicately. Kaufman’s script coupled with Jonze’s direction presents the ideas just below the surface. They’re there. You see them. But there’s a detachment. And that barrier is wacky, weird, and hilarious. You’re never bored for a second during Being John Malkovich and even as you ingest the story, its ideas latch onto you, almost without effort. Truly, I could wax poetically and heap praise on Being John Malkovich for several thousand more words. The performances. The music. The production design. It’s all so understated and magnificent. Though it’s a film of grandiose ideas, Jonze presents them all in such a familiar, almost meek way, that everything becomes more believable. This is a world anyone can recognize, no matter who we are, even a famous celebrity.

And yet, maybe the fact the film is so thematically malleable does, in fact, help illuminate everything about it. Maybe the ability to become someone else is simply what life is. We all grow up. We all change. But the body remains the same. Maybe 19-year-old “Fight Club rulez!” Germain is still in there somewhere, but 40-year-old me just happens to now be steering the ship. Or maybe that’s all bullshit. The point is, over two decades since its release, Being John Malkovich isn’t just tour-de-force it always was. It’s a masterpiece that just gets better and better.

All these people and more are going...where?
All these people and more are going…where?
Photo: USA Films

Random Thoughts

  • I used to think Charlie Sheen playing himself was cute and funny but it’s the one aspect of the film that the passage of 20 years totally ruins. Mountains of bad press and horrid allegations will do that.
  • I didn’t realize it until now but the film’s climactic action scene with Lotte and Maxine racing through Malkovich’s subconscious reminded me that Kaufman kind of ripped himself off a few years later. At the end of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel and Clementine run through his subconscious. Is it stealing if you’re stealing from yourself?
  • Spoiler alert but are Lotte and Maxine OK with their daughter becoming the vessel at the end? How will they deal with that moving ahead? Though I’d never go as far as to say “make a sequel,” I would be fascinated to see how two parents live when they’re fully aware their daughter will basically be impregnated with the essence of dozens of old people at 44.
  • I was today years old when I realized that the double feature I enjoyed in 1999 shared a common thread. David Fincher, director of Fight Club, cameos in Being John Malkovich as a journalist during the Malkovich puppeteer news story. Talk about coincidence. Oh, and when I shut off Malkovich after watching it over the weekend, what film was on TV? Fight Club. [Editor’s note: *Twilight Zone noises intensify*]

Being John Malkovich is currently streaming on Netflix.


For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

Source : Gizmodo Read More

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tech

Charge Your Phone Wirelessly With 50% off a Multifunctional LED Lamp

Published

on

Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

White Wireless Charge Lamp | $18 | Amazon | Clip coupon + code ABC88699
Black Wireless Charger Lamp | $20 | Amazon | Promo code ABC88699

When you’re ready to turn in for the night, you don’t want to forget to charge your phone— especially if your mobile device doubles as your alarm clock.

With this wireless charger lamp, you can make this crucial step of your nightly routine even easier by just setting your phone on the wireless charging pad and… well, that’s all there is to it!

Advertisement

Other functions include multiple lighting modes as well as a sleep timer option for auto shut-off of the light after 30 or 60 minutes.

This lamp can be yours in white for $18 if you clip the coupon on Amazon (it’s below the original $40 price) and add promo code ABC88699 at checkout.

You can snag the black version for $20 using the same code—no coupon though, sorry.

Don’t sleep on this deal! Who knows how long stock or the coupon code will last?

Advertisement


Source

Continue Reading

Tech

Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

Published

on

Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

Advertisement

That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

Advertisement

Grab this offer while it’s still around!


Source

Continue Reading

Tech

Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

Published

on

Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

Advertisement

You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

Advertisement


Source

Continue Reading

Trending