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'Being John Malkovich' comes as pleasant surprise

Nov. 17, 1999

By DAVID IRVIN

Entertainment Writer

The movie Being John Malkovich is surprising, creative and extremely satisfying to watch.

It is about a strange and struggling puppeteer, Craig Schwartz, played by John Cusack, who decides to put his life into the sphere of normalcy by finding a steady job.

His wife Lotte,played by a highly 'uglified' Cameron Diaz, supports his endeavor.

Ironically, his step toward a normal life in the modern-day workplace provides the basis for some very odd plot twists and hilarious situations; much the opposite of his intentions.

The funniest and oddest concept, as indicated by the film's name, has to do with a small portal Schwartz finds at his workplace that leads directly into the head of John Malkovich.

Whoever enters his head will remain for 15 minutes before being spat out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.

This opens up all sorts of opportunities for wacky commentary on everything from celebrity, to self-absorption, to love.

The film was written with near perfection, taking into account all of the strange happenings surrounding the discovery and use of the Malkovich portal.

Throw in a couple of dysfunctional love stories, some transsexual tendencies in Lotte, an apartment full of animals (a chimp for comedic icing), and it is easy to see that writing this script could get very complicated.

The movie ultimately asks one question: Is there a greater curse for a puppeteer than to be absolutely detached from his puppet?

There are several cameos by various Hollywood stars. These are best not disclosed now, for impact and comedic sake. Also, knowing too much about the plot beforehand would ruin the movie on first viewing.

Be aware that the movie is a satire that basically tells a dark story of one man's obsession with celebrity. There is much in this film that will surprise and elate you.

John Malkovich plays himself, of course. Through the movie he experiences many different states of mind that he must act out. The viewer can easily see the different characters running around in his head.

I like the films that have come out recently. This film, as well as American Beauty, got away from the Hollywood sensationalism that has been so prominent in the '90s and survived wholly on creative writing, acting and directing.

I highly recommend this film for three reasons. It will show that film can still be surprising, you will see excellent acting across the board and the total cinematic experience will be fullfilling.