Pull the Strings!

The power of puppetry propels Being John Malkovich

Because this is a dark comedy (the last act and the wrap-up are on the dank side, with a surprising swatch of bathos woven into the fabric), somebody has to suffer. In this sense, the movie is in synch with its contemporaries; its verdict (and the escalating drama leading up to it) feels forced, reactionary, and a bit unjust. The movie sweeps this aside, however, with its fascinating theme of puppetry, with everyone yanking someone else's strings. Taken allegorically or literally (we get both perspectives), this mad craving for control propels the narrative through an impressive and inventive obstacle course.

A secondary premise, blatantly spelled out in the poster art, is silly science-fiction malarkey, but it's still a fair sight more imaginative than most material in studio films, which is why, despite its glitches, Being John Malkovich is so refreshing. Imagine if this brand of whimsy catches on in Hollywood -- there could be sequels! Say, perhaps, Being Geena Davis or Being Jackie Chan or (why not?) Being Rupert Murdoch. Not only could John Cusack abandon grooming for good and ride the series until he croaks, it's simply a frontier of limitless potential.

Catherine Keener and John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich.
Catherine Keener and John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich.

Well, we can always dream.

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