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December 4, 1999

Being John Malkovich the Most Messed Up Surreal Movie of the Year

My mind is numb. I am in shock. I just saw Being John Malkovich, and my brain shut down in a desperate attempt to maintain its sanity. Being John Malkovich is probably the most messed up, surreal movie that I have ever seen, like the most wacked out LSD trip you can possibly imagine. In fact, I'm amazed this movie ever got made in the first place, especially with a first time scriptwriter and a director whose only experience lay as an actor and a music video director. The fact that this movie exists at all boggles the mind.

And I mean that in a good way.

Being John Malkovich is a miracle on so many different levels. The first miracle is the script, which is phenomenally surreal and wonderful. As the absurdity begins to pile up, the film takes on the characteristics of a house of cards, stacking up, seemingly ready to fall apart at any moment. Being John Malkovich could at any moment collapse into utter senselessness and stupidity; the entire cast and crew needs to be commended for keeping it up. The script is just pure brilliance, examining gender roles, the nature of love, our fascination with celebrity, and relationships with insane intelligence.

The second miracle is that John Malkovich allowed this film to be made at all. When the film isn't calling him "overrated" and mocking his "too prominent brow and the male pattern baldness", it is showing him to be an weak, lonely old man who just happens to be semi-famous. It's amazing that any actor would willingly let himself be ridiculed like this.

The other actors are also incredible. Both John Cusack and Cameron Diaz are impressively unattractive and slimy. Most importantly, they play their respective roles as characters, not charicatures. These are not stereotypes on the screen, but people thrust into a situation that a Dadaist would find absurd. The best minor character in this film is probably Dr. Lester (Orson Bean), a man continually apologizing for a speech impediment that he doesn't have. His character is one of the highlights of the great supporting cast.

The final miracle of this movie is that it was ever made at all, especially with such a cast and crew. All the actors are A-List actors who could normally ask for a higher salary than the entire budget of the film. How this movie made it through the Hollywood mill, I'll never understand. Not that I'm complaining. This movie must be seen. It is the most original and dementedly brilliant movie of the year.

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