Being John Malkovich ★★★★★

I originally downloaded this as part of "Generation X Black Comedy" week of the 2017 Film School Dropouts challenge, but didn't get around to watching it until last month. This was actually the first time I had watched this since it was in theaters almost twenty years ago, and was a whole lot better than I remembered it being; I suppose I didn't give it a fair shake back in the '90s because of it being such a ridiculously overhyped "perfect hipster" film by a "perfect hipster" writer and a "perfect hipster" director. (To be clear, I'm not a big fan of Spike Jonze, whose overrated projects tend to be adored by the precise McSweeney's-reading, NPR-listening hipster doofuses who I can't stand hanging around, giving me a natural bias that makes me automatically deduct a point from my scores before even seeing the movies in question.)

This time, though, unsaddled from the hipster expectations of its original release, I realized that this is actually kind of a brilliant examination of fluid sexual identity, and the expectations we have about life versus the oftentimes disappointing realities that life has to give us. The magical psychic hole into our titular hero's head is much more of a symbolic metaphor than I gave it credit the last time I watched this, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as usual actually saying something much deeper and more profound about the human condition itself than the wacky premise would initially make it seem. I mean, don't get me wrong, I liked the wacky premise -- there's something so delightfully menacing about a half-sized forgotten floor of a Manhattan skyscraper that serves as a portal for a disruption in the space-time continuum, just to spit you out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike afterwards, kind of like if Jonze had adapted an HP Lovecraft Cthulhu tale as a bawdy comedy* -- but going into this movie with an open mind allows you to see that there's a lot more at play here than simply a wacky genre tale, with Kaufman actually saying something quite serious about the human soul along the way. A hit-and-miss with me before, it now comes strongly recommended; now to see whether I might feel the same way about a rewatching of the dismal Where the Wild Things Are.

*Please, Mr. Jonze, please adapt an HP Lovecraft Cthulhu tale as a bawdy comedy.

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