Being John Malkovich (1999)

Being John Malkovich
Directed by Spike Jonze
Written by Charlie Kaufman
(number 441)

Well, this is a fucking weird movie. I don’t know how else to say it, really. It’s weird as weird as weird. And it isn’t just the subject matter which is weird, it’s also the disconcerting way it’s filmed, the horrible nature of the characters in it and the bizarre ending.

I have seen it just once before and felt disconcerted and disturbed by the whole thing. I can’t remember too much of it, but watching the film a lot of it came back to me as it happened. The love that Lotte has for being Malkovich, the eventual consumption of Malkovich’s life by Craig.

Here’s what’s amazing about this film: the actors, the way Cameron Diaz disappears under frizzy hair and a schlubby parka, John Cusack playing a horrifically self centred and basically evil person.

Lotte comes out to Craig as a transsexual after her first experience in Malkovich and he handles it horribly, telling her first that she’s just going through a phase and then that she is an idiot because she wants to go to her regular doctor about it. He is callous and hurtful to her when she is revealing something that makes her vulnerable. Although this theme isn’t really picked up on later through the movie. Lotte remains utterly devoted to Maxine, passionately in love with her but the idea that she would rather have a man’s body seems to just be a euphemism for wanting to be John Malkovich as so many others also do.

Does it make me love the people? I love Lotte, and to a lesser part Maxine. I love Malkovich and not Craig at all.

There’s this amazing moment:

Maxine: I’ve fallen in love
Craig: I don’t think so, because I’ve fallen in love. This is what people in love look like!

It illustrates perfectly the issues with Craig’s self centredness, and it’s an issue that I see echoed in a lot of modern men’s interactions online. He believes that his experiences are the only valid ones, that he knows exactly what is true and correct and he knows better than Maxine and Lotte. He is always right, even when as a viewer we can see that he’s entirely driven by his desire to be the ‘better’ or more right person, regardless of who he hurts. He is the one who truly understands the pain of being in love and no one else better even try to pretend that they know.

Maxine does some very cold and callous things but I think she ultimately finds redemption when she makes peace with Lotte again, I am really happy about the happy lesbian ending to the story, with Craig stranded helpless inside Emily’s head.

I feel so sorry for John Malkovich who is free of possession for about two minutes after the mid point of the film. Poor sap. At least the old people take better care of his life than Craig did.

Bechdel test:
Maxine and Lotte speak to each other and introduce themselves, technically Craig introduces them but they do speak to each other several more times, making dates where Lotte is in Malkovich and about their longing for each other. There’s some incredible weirdness with Maxine talking to Lotte while she’s inside Malkovich as well. They talk a lot at the climax of the movie too, especially about Maxine’s unborn daughter.

Best line:
Maxine: Craig, I don’t find you attractive, but Lotte, I’m smitten with you. I am… but only when you’re in Malkovich. When I was with him last night, I was looking into his eyes, I could see behind the too prominent brow and the stubble and could sense your feminine longing.

John Malkovich: The weird thing is, this Maxine likes to call me “Lotte”.
Charlie Sheen: Ouch. That is hot.

State of Mind: It is a fascinating movie, one with a lot of twists and turns, lots of deeply fucked up stuff and ultimately it’s not a lot of fun to watch. Just not my sort of thing I guess, but I do have to class it as a genius piece of film making – it really pushes the boundaries of what film can be used for, and that’s a good thing.

Watched movie count


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