Surrealist cinema at its most inventive and edifying, this feature debut by music video maestro Spike Jonze poses questions of existentialism and celebrity without the pretension of feeling like you're in a philosophy symposium. Armed with Charlie Kaufman's devilishly clever and narratively sound script, the director creates a funhouse of the mind, but never strays from its originating premise, which involves the fascination and consequences of living as someone else, even for a brief period. Filled with offbeat humor and surprisingly free of empty flash (unusual for a director whose only previous experience is in music video), Being John Malkovich finds a genre niche that seems relatively untapped, similar to a film like David Lynch's Blue Velvet, which created a world all its own even in the midst of familiar surroundings. A mid-level success upon release, the film was honored on several critics' Ten Best lists of 1999, and garnered first-time Oscar nominations for Jonze, Kaufman, and co-star Catherine Keener, who is ruthlessly funny as the object of John Cusack's affections.
by Jason Clark review