We gave it an A
Believe it or not, this is the plot: When Craig (Cusack) stumbles onto a portal that transports him into the brain of oddball movie star John Malkovich (played by… John Malkovich), his crass coworker Maxine (Keener) sees it as a rare business opportunity.
Sounds absurd, but ”Being John Malkovich”’s premise intrigued the title character enough to take a meeting with first-time feature director Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who jetted to France (where the actor lives) to sell him on the project. ”I was very impressed by the writing,” says Malkovich, ”but I never imagined anyone being crazy enough to make it. [It’s not like] the title is going to bring people out in droves.”
Jonze — known for his techno-savvy music videos like Weezer’s ”Buddy Holly,” set in a ”Happy Days” episode — scored again when Cameron Diaz signed on as Craig’s shockingly homely wife, who dotes more on her clingy pet chimpanzee than her self-esteem-challenged husband.
Working with a modest $13 million budget, Jonze (who also appears in October’s ”Three Kings”) cut corners where he could. Instead of hiring thousands of extras for a scene in which Malkovich attends a big event, the director simply took his cameras to last year’s MTV Video Music Awards. For Jonze, that means some unexpected star cameos. As for Malkovich, ”I just had fun acting like an a–hole.” BUZZ FACTOR: 3