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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

A Perfectly Bizarre Film: Being John Malchovich (1999)

I know I’m decades late on this one, but I finally watched Being John Malchovich (1999) and wow. This film has been on my radar since its release, but it’s evaded me, almost comically so. 

I am a fan of Charlie Kaufman’s work, and it’s no surprise that I am now also a fan of Being John Malchovich. Starring Malchovich (as some version of himself), along with John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener (not to mention a ton of great cameos). 

a man looks through a tiny door

Being John Malchovich was the first feature film for both Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. It’s equal parts comedy, love triangle and science fiction. For me, it firmly belongs in a very specific sub-sub-genre-bending group of films (including Adaptation, The Truman Show and Magnolia). A group of films that make no sense, but also make all the sense in the world. All of which seemed to come out in the late 90s and early 2000s. Films that really went for it, in wild and unexpected ways, and delivered. They are all charming, and at times heart-breaking, and bring a little levity to the heavy topics they explore.

a man and woman crouch in a low hallway

One of the more fascinating elements of this project is the origin story. Charlie Kaufman did not know John Malchovich or Spike Jonze when he wrote the story. Kaufman had sent the script to Francis Ford Coppola, who had passed it along to his daughter’s then boyfriend, Jonze. 

The story is so nutty, but perfect in so many ways. I marvel at the fact that this movie exists. That all the pieces came together and most importantly, that John Malchovich was on board. What a risk. 

we see a woman through some sort of portal

Being John Malchovich was nominated for three Academy Awards, and has widely been celebrated since i’s release in 1999. 

Anyways, if anyone else out there has somehow missed this gem, this is your sign to watch it.

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