The few Oscar
nominations this film
received do not do it justice. While Catherine Keener
was the only actor to be nominated (and I suppose, beaten fairly by Angelina Jolie
), the film is contributed to by John Cusack
, Cameron Diaz
and, most importantly, John Malkovich
Malkovich's role is the thing that makes this film take that extra step away from sharp comedy. While the lesbian overtones have become almost the focus of the film for many people, they are just a subset of what is arguably one of the most exquisite double entendres ever seen in modern cinema.
Cusack's part as the the puppeteer is (I promised myself I wouldn't use this word, but I will) symbolic of the idea that people cannot understand themselves, so they take to understanding, empathising, and ultimately, controlling others. This tenet is expressed in a number of ways - Keener uses the control as a retrograde form of power, Diaz uses it as self-discovery (the point of the lesbian overtones is she is discovering who she really is), and Cusack...as the puppeteer, he can never truly work out why he is running from himself and into Malkovich, and this is one of the saddest parts of the movie.
I loved this film, and am thus biased in what I say and what I see, but I believe these ideas are exempt from like and hate. As Cusack says in passing during the film, the discovery of the portal to Malkovich is a 'metaphysical can of worms'. This borders on corny, I know, but in all honesty, I cannot be sure that Spike Jonze is not in my mind now writing this, and that I have just been the puppet all along.