Criterion Corner: Being John Malkovich 1999.

 The Criterion Collection for years have been releasing the best versions of movies on DVD and Blue Ray.  They are hands down the ultimate praise a film can receive,and while many claim  the Oscar to be  the ultimate recognition.  Having the work and praise that goes into a Criterion edition.  Shows that it was put together by film lovers for film lovers.  This section is going to be dedicated to some of the great movies in this growing collection.


Let’s start this review off by stating for a fact that “Being John Malkovich” is one of the most creative and inventive movies ever released.  Music video veteran Spike Jonze knocks his feature-length debut out of the park with a movie that could have easily been misread as a one note joke.  Something that would be good for a quick laugh as a skit on Kids in The Hall or Monty Python.  Although this has been labeled as a comedy.  The tone of it is played like a serious drama.   This makes the characters appear more realistic, and the laughs that happen more genuine.Craig Schwartz(John Cusack) is a lonely puppeteer who lives with his animal obsessed wife Lodi(Cameron Diaz).  While at a job as a filing clerk, he accidentally discovers a portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich(John Malkovich).  Maxine(Catherine Keener) a woman who Craig is in love with but wants nothing to do with him physically, decides that she should work with him and sell people the experience of being John Malkovich.

I’ll get into themes of this a little bit later, but first of all let’s talk about casting.  Every single person in this flick fits perfectly.  Even some of the smaller parts were well done too (Mary Kay Place is great as the secretary who can’t hear to well). John Cusack plays against type and shows a character that starts off as a somewhat nice guy, but as it goes on, he becomes more and more menacing. The character of Maxine played by Catherine Keener appears to be hateful bitch when you first meet her, but at least she’s honest with herself and does have a change of character throughout the story.  I almost forgot that Cameron Diaz was in this because she is very unrecognizable. The usual beauty you associate with her in is gone, and with that.  She turns in one of the single best performances of her career.  And let’s not forget Mr. Malkovich himself for taking part in this as well.  His performance is great because I believed he acted like that in real life.  I know that’s not true, but like a good actor he convinced me it was.


The movie gets into some interesting material later on when it addresses the concept of self.  If Craig and others can enter the body of another human to be a part of them. How much of themselves are actually still there,and what about Malkovich.   Is he still himself or not?   This also has a lot to say about where our personalities come from too.   I  have been told many times by other relatives how much they see my deceased grandfather when they speak to me.  Am I the reincarnation of him or did he just happen to enter into my portal.   It also introduces ideas about existentialism but never once does it try to convince the audience that this correct and all other beliefs are wrong.   You can still enjoy this film without getting into its philosophy, but it does make for some interesting conversation if you do.

The Criterion Collection recently put this out on BlueRay and I highly recommend grabbing this.  That company puts a lot of work into their releases and you get a great list of bonus features when you pick this up.

  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised by director Spike Jonze, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
  • New selected-scene audio commentary featuring Jonze’s friend and competitor the filmmaker Michel Gondry
  • New behind-the-scenes documentary by filmmaker Lance Bangs
  • New conversation between actor John Malkovich and humorist John Hodgman
  • New interview with Jonze in which he discusses his on-set photos
  • Two films within the film: 7½ Floor Orientation and “American Arts & Culture” Presents John Horatio Malkovich: “Dance of Despair and Disillusionment”
  • An Intimate Portrait of the Art of Puppeteering, a documentary by Bangs
  • Trailer and TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a conversation between Jonze and pop-culture critic Perkus Tooth

About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcasts The Film Pasture, ScreenTrax, and soon Cinema Recall. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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7 Responses to Criterion Corner: Being John Malkovich 1999.

  1. ninvoid99 says:

    I have this film on Criterion DVD. I have yet to see the extra features as I’m currently doing other things but this is still my favorite Spike Jonze feature film which I hope to revisit once his new film comes out.

  2. Its a great flick, Vern. Unique and strange… I love this one. I think it has a lot to say about the neurosis of being an artist. One of these days I’m going to break it down and figure it out in a big way. LOL

    Its one of those movies that makes you want to unravel it and understand it completely. 😀

  3. Nice write up Vern that criterion blu-ray sounds amazing with regards to bonus features. I have been meaning to re-watch this for some time.

  4. The Vern says:

    Thank you Scott. Yeah Criterion makes good movies even better. It’s weird but I know a few people who hate Spike Jonze movies.

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