On Demand Spotlight: Being John Malkovich



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Being John Malkovich is a strange beast, not just because of its oddball premise, but also because of how it wormed its way into our collective minds.

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It’s such a classic, its premise so well known, that we just accept it as it is, as if it’s a mainstream, ordinary and accessible film. But, while it’s critically adored and smothered by awards, Being John Malkovich is anything but ordinary.

John Cusack (at the peak of his ‘90s popularity) plays Craig, an out of work puppeteer who takes a clerical job in New York office block: He works on a half-floor, with low ceilings – officially known as the building’s “Floor 7 1/2”. While working there, he discovers something strange behind an old filing cabinet; a portal into the mind of John Malkovich.

For a brief spell of time, Craig can see through his eyes and even control the respected actor’s actions … before popping out the other end, back into his own body, and in a ditch by the New Jersey Turnpike.

Soon enough, Craig and a colleague he fancies, Maxine (Catherine Keener, in an Oscar-nominated role), are charging people $200 a go to enter Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes at a time.

Malkovich plays himself in the film, bringing his trademark weirdness and surprising comic timing to the role. Rumour has it that the scene where a motorist throws a can at the actor while yelling “Yo, Malkovich!” was unplanned and unscripted.

Being John Malkovich is the kind of film that gives surrealism a good name: It’s mind-expanding and wholly original, but it’s also funny and lively, with a neat visual style and spirited performances from a starry cast. (Cameron Diaz and Charlie Sheen also appear.)

It’s a good time to watch this unique gem for a number of reasons. Spike Jonze, the director, has had a remarkable career since this film, having made Adaptation and Her, and appeared in The Wolf of Wall Street (he played DiCaprio’s boss in the crummy, penny-stock company). Its writer, Charlie Kaufman, also went on to great things, writing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Also, it’s fun to watch at Oscar season, as the film was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1999 (Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director). We sometimes imagine that Oscar-nominated films are worthy dramas, full of weight and importance. Well, as Being John Malkovich proved, that’s not always the case.


See the world through a fresh set of eyes.

This instant classic is instantly available on Virgin On Demand.


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