A puppeteer filled with existential despair, a chimpanzee with anxiety issues, a rapacious beauty, a mysterious filing firm on floor 7 1/2 of a downtown office building, a meek wife caught in a whirlpool of gender confusion and, of course, John
Malkovich. Swirl them together and you get this bizarre, utterly original and truly indescribable comedy. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is the puppet master, passionately devoted to his art and dead broke because of it. His wife Lotte (a frighteningly drabbed-down Cameron Diaz), keeper of a
neurotic menagerie, starts hinting that maybe Craig should get some kind of job, so he signs on at the Lester Corporation. Mr. Lester (Orson Bean) is a geriatric oddball, employees walk doubled over because of the low ceilings and you have to pry the elevator doors open with a crowbar. But Chuck
finds two reasons to love his job: Maxine (Catherine Keener), the no-nonsense man-eater who sets his loins afire, and the portal, a muddy passageway hidden behind some filing cabinets that leads directly into the brain of John Malkovich, who plays himself with considerable grace and good humor.
You can only stay in his head for 15 minutes before being ejected onto a swampy spot alongside the Jersey Turnpike, but it's a bizarre, voyeuristic thrill nonetheless, even if Malkovich is just buttering toast or quizzing mail-order catalogue operators about the availability of bathmats and
towels. Video director Spike Jonze's first feature is deeply peculiar and weirdly funny, emphasis on the weird. By the time Malkovich barges through the portal into his own head (where absolutely everyone is John Malkovich, from restaurant waiters to vampy cabaret chanteuses) you just have to
marvel at how well Jonze and screenwriter Charles Kaufman keep the whole thing from strangling on its own eccentricity. You just have to see it for yourself.
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