Review – Being John Malkovich (1999)

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being-john-malkovich-55f71e1de07abWelcome to Mind Control Month | Sci-Fi/Fantasy Week – Day 4. Now, here’s a movie that takes weirdness to a whole new level – Being John Malkovich. This film is weird and random, but most importantly, it’s a bit of a masterpiece all around. A big part of that is probably because it was written by Charlie Kaufman, for the second time in a row this week. What can I say? I think Kaufman has the ability to control my mind. Let’s start with the plot of this film.

Street entertainer Craig Schwartz doesn’t seem to have much luck somehow always managing to offend someone – which occasionally leads to a black eye. He eventually gets a job as a file clerk for a company located in an office tower on Floor 7½ – where the ceilings are only 5½ feet high. No one seems to think the arrangement is odd and Craig just gets on with his work. Things take a shift into the bizarre when Craig moves a filing cabinet behind which he finds a tunnel that leads him to see through the eyes of actor John Malkovich. For Craig and the others who become aware of the portal, it represents both risks and opportunities. – IMDb

It takes a massively creative mind to think up just half of what happens in this film. A lot of people call things like this weird, but that’s only because they can’t see outside the realm or spectrum of what they’ve seen a million times before. Admit it, this is sharp, unique, and creative beyond measure. Did it need a 7 1/2th floor? No. Did it need to be John Malkovich? No, in fact, the producers and Malkovich wanted Tom Cruise, but the director stuck to his guns and a legend was born. Can you imagine a movie called Being Tom Cruise? It just wouldn’t work out as well. Did it need the weird love triangle? No, but it’s one of the most unique love triangles in film history. If this film had followed suit as a million other films, it wouldn’t nearly be as special treasure as it now is.

But, before I go on a long tangent about it, let’s go ahead and break down Being John Malkovich to interpret the stars.

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PEOPLE SCORE – 10/10
Acting – 2|Characters – 2|Casting – 2|Importance – 2|Chemistry – 2

We first delve into the people category, which received perfect marks. There is a surprising quality to everything here, especially when you take the concept into consideration. Did they need very good acting or characters when it comes down to it? No, not really. Anyone could ride around in Malkovich’s mind, which means only Malkovich himself has to perform great acting – but even the outer characters have their own unique qualities about themselves that make THEM fun to watch, too. So all in all, the acting was phenomenal on all counts, all of the characters are pretty memorable in general, I wouldn’t dare cast anyone else in these roles, either. Everyone has their own reason to be there and ride the Malkovich train, which sets in a very strange look on chemistry and how it’s perceived in any film, all of which are nothing less than fascinating.

WRITING SCORE – 9/10
Dialogue – 2|Balance – 1|Story – 2|Originality – 2|Interesting – 2

Next up, we have the writing category, which received a nearly perfect score. I am a little biased on the dialogue, though, because I personally feel like anything that comes out of John Malkovich’s mouth is pure gold. Balance-wise, I could see where it could be confusing. Instead of one person visiting Malkovich, it’s several people, which sometimes overdoes it, as that was never something that was needed. Also, you’ve got Malkovich entering his own mind. A lot of that is comical, but it does sometimes make things a little convoluted. Next up, we have the story, which is mostly done just for fun, but it does have a few meaningful messages in there, as well, when it comes to love. I don’t think I have to tell you that, yes, it is also very original and ultimately interesting.

BTS SCORE – 9/10
Visuals – 2|Directing – 2|Editing – 2|Advertisement – 2|Music – 1

With behind-the-scenes, we have another nearly perfect score. The visuals in this film are unique. If you saw a screenshot of this film, you’d mostly know that it came from this film. So, there’s a lot of practical effects which definitely attributes to that, as well as a nice dark and gloomy tone. The directing of the film is also done well with both how it is shot and how it tells a story. Editing wise, I can’t really complain. It is also as-advertised, but nothing about the music really stood out for me this time.

NARRATIVE ARC SCORE – 10/10
Introduction – 2|Inciting Incident – 2|Obstacles – 2|Climax – 2|Falling Action – 2

Being John Malkovich also had a perfect narrative structure. The introduction had a bunch of basic intro stuff for our characters and the 7 1/2th floor. The inciting incident is when they discover the portal into Malkovich’s mind. The obstacles really come down to Malkovich himself trying to fight off the possession and the weird love triangle bits. The climax is a decent culmination of everything added up, and the falling action definitely had a return to a new norm, so everything was great there.

ENTERTAINMENT SCORE – 8/10
Rewatchability – 2|Fun – 2|Impulse/Buy – 1|Impulse/Talk – 2|Sucks you in – 1

How entertaining was it? I would say it’s pretty entertaining, edging on almost blowing your mind in parts, but never really reaching that point. Breaking it down further, I would say that it is entertaining enough to re-watch time and time again because it really is a fun movie. It’s the comedy bits in this film that sticks out a little more than it should, though. I think the actual comedy stopped it from fully sucking you in from beginning to end. In the end, I’d love to own it, but I can’t really see me buying it. That being said, it’s definitely unique of a film that your friends may have never heard about or seen, so it’s definitely one of those movies where you’ll probably have an urge to tell others that it exists.

SPECIALTY TOTAL – 50/50
Mind Control – 10|Fantasy – 10|Comedy – 10|Drama – 10|Memory – 10

Now for the specialty questions that I wrote before seeing the film. How was it for mind control month? That’s what I love about this themed month, there are so many different ways you can control the mind, and this takes a completely different approach…but it is still mind control. How about the fantasy angle? I don’t know how else you’d really explain this film other than being fantasy. It’s certainly not science fiction. So full points there, as well. Next up, how was the comedy? Dark and brilliant. If it weren’t for Malkovich’s role, I really don’t think the comedy would’ve worked so well overall. How was the drama? Well, it’s certainly dramatic in a weird way, but dramatic nonetheless. Finally, does it hold up to memory? Yeah, boy!

TOTAL – 96/100

 

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