If the most unusual movie had to picked out of every movie ever produced, the movie selected may well be Spike Jonze's quirky Being John Malkovich. The film follows a struggling puppeteer, Craig Schwartz, who discovers a portal on floor 7 ½ of an odd building that leads quite literally into the head of flamboyant movie star John Malkovich. Although an exceptionally quirky film, Being John Malkovich's themes are very genuine and layered. Some themes include marriage, the loss of attraction, depression, and the film's tagline: Be All That Someone Else Can Be.
Charlie Kaufman's idea for Being John Malkovich originated as "a story about a man who falls in love with someone who is not his wife." Over time, he began to add additional elements to the story which he deemed entertaining, such as floor 7½ of the large building. Interestingly, though, Malkovich was never in Kaufman's plans for the film. Not surprisingly, given this creation's exotic and quirky nature, screenwriter Kaufaum's spec script (a script that is non-commissioned and unsolicited by anyone) garnered little interest from studios even though it was widely read. Desperately wanting to get the film made and wanting to find a producer, Kaufman sent this script to acclaimed filmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who in turn sent it to then son-in-law Spike Jonze, who ended up reading the script and a short time later agreeing to direct it. Says Malkovich regarding the film: "Either the movie's a bomb and it's got not only my name above the title but my name in the title, so I'm f****d either way; or it does well and I'm just forever associated with this character."
Upon release, the film was met with tremendous critical acclaim and modest financial acclaim, grossing $32.4 million on a $13 million budget. In his review for the film, acclaimed critic Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of a possible 4 stars, saying that it was the "best film of 1999" and saying that "Rare is the movie where the last half hour surprises you just as much as the first, and in ways you're not expecting. The movie has ideas enough for half a dozen films, but Jonze and his cast handle them so surely that we never feel hard-pressed; we're enchanted by one development after the next." At the time of writing, the film currently holds a 93% approval rating on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.