At the Movies with Brian Novak

Being John Malkovich: Review

12 March 2021

What makes a consciousness independent? Evidently, not much according to Spike Jonze’s 1999 ‘classic’: Being John Malkovich. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is an unsuccessful puppeteer who discovers a portal into the head of John Malkovich (John Malkovich). Schwartz mostly plods along as an asinine protagonist, only to be challenged with fanciful moral dilemmas and philosophical nonsense. While I suppose some of the film is admirable, Charlie Kaufman’s debut screenplay is marred by his painful desperation to be ‘weird’ and ‘experimental’ for the sake of it. For example, consider the scene where everyone has the head of John Malkovich. There was no logical reason for this, so why include it at all? It isn’t even biologically feasible for so many people to have the same face. I happened to be watching Malkovich with my dear girlfriend, Millicent, who was scoffing throughout the entire scene. The only pleasure I took from this ‘film’ were the extraordinary puppet sequences, where mere strings controlled and manipulated objects. It reminded me of my own inventions, and I confess there were many times when Millicent nudged me with a knowing giggle. For those who know me personally, you’d know I’m trying to grow the longest fingernails in the world. Film reviewing is a cut-throat industry, and one needs to stand out from the mass of samey blogs and David Strattons. I encourage my readers to give me a suitable nickname that might resonate with the public. I’m partial to ‘The Long-Nailed Film Reviewer’, but perhaps someone more creative will comment the perfect alias over on my YouTube channel: NovakReviews. Obviously, having extremely long fingernails impedes many of my day-to-day activities, such as brushing my teeth and applying roll on deodorant. Even typing this review requires an awkward distance between me and the keyboard. Millicent tells me this is only going to get worse, so now my bedroom is filled with nifty contraptions and pulley devices, like something you’d see in a Tim Burton film (please refer to my review of Edward Scissorhands).

While much of Malkovich revolves around Schwartz’s relationship with his wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz), and co-worker, Maxine (Catherine Keener), none of the acting shines; or perhaps I’m the wrong person to judge. I can’t say I relate to being in a loveless relationship, so maybe I don’t know how people behave under these circumstances. It’s amazing having Millicent as a girlfriend. We talk all the time and have great banter. Sometimes, I’ll even hold my nails up while quoting Scarface and she’ll roll her eyes. I don’t think she’s too impressed by my nail-growing endeavours, despite the fact I hit the ten centimetre milestone a few days ago. It’s great waking up next to her each morning; even though we sleep in separate beds due to my fingernails scratching her awake. When watching Malkovich, I kept thinking about how the characters would live with extremely long fingernails. Certainly, the characters played by Cusack, Diaz and Keener would have had tremendous difficulty opening the doorway into Malkovich’s head. Yet, despite the film’s frequent references to puppetry, none of them knew strings like I do.

The best way to illustrate how my pulley-devices and inventions work is to relate my morning routine. Before I describe them, I want to make it absolutely clear that none of my inventions are for sale. I’m proud to declare my reviews are not-for-profit and purely for the tasteful deconstruction of cinema. So, I rolled out of bed this morning and went to the bathroom. After consulting my pants-unzipping-and-underwear-slider-downer machine (a fiddly contraption with hooks), I positioned myself above a large funnel that rests above the toilet and did my business. I read somewhere that it’s better for your thighs to urinate standing up. I pushed up a weight hanging from the ceiling on a pulley system, which released another weight onto the flush button. Most of my devices are self-sufficient, but occasionally I’ll get Millicent to assist me with things like replacing the toothpaste in the toothpaste-lever-and-squeezing machine and topping up the Rice Bubbles in the cereal-pouring machine in the kitchen (I am not sponsored by Kellogg’s). The latter involves cutting a hole into the bottom of the box and taking the Rice Bubbles out of the plastic and fitting the slider in line with the hole and above where a bowl can fit. Millicent also gets to keep refitting the milk machine; a nifty device that starts in the fridge with a tube that enters the carton, carrying the milk out through a small hole in the side of the fridge (welded shut and air-tight), and right to a spot near the cereal machine. She reckons I could be the next Einstein with all my inventions. However, relying on her is tough sometimes. Just this morning I was running low on Rice Bubbles, but she said she was busy, so I had to settle for a much smaller bowl of cereal than I’m accustomed to.

Overall, Being John Malkovich is a decent film, but with a running time of nearly two hours, it’s remarkable that nobody in the cinema fell asleep.

Three stars.

“At the Movies with Brian Novak” is a movie review column by the fictitious Brian Novak, otherwise known as the real James Gordon.

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