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.