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Headscratchers: Being John Malkovich
  • How did Lester figure out how the portal worked? Along with all those details?
    • Presumably, as he's been switching from host to host for centuries, he's worked out most of the details by now. And he had what looked like a Tome of Eldritch Lore from which he got the information, so maybe the portal had some occult significance.
      • Actually, it seems Malkovich is only his second host body: he stated he found the portal only 90 years ago. He could have been lying, but given he's already given his mental age (105) it's unlikely.
  • Does the portal predate the building? What happens if the building is torn down?
    • Yes. James Mertin, who's now in Lester's body, built the building, with its seven-and-a-halfth floor, just so he could reach the portal. Before then, it was presumably just hanging in midair. It's not revealed how he found out where it is.
      • That doesn't make sense to me either. And why bother with a half floor anyway? I never caught that either - couldn't it just as easily have been attached to the eighth floor of a normal building?
      • Well, if they'd built it on a normal floor, it would've been high up on the wall and thus harder to access. As for working it out - one would assume he may have actually created the portal, because after all, nobody with such a knowledge of such a tenuous thing would just stray upon it. As Maxine says near the beginning - the story of the creation of floor 7 and a half may be moving, but "unfortunately, it's bullshit".
      • But if the building were built to access the portal then why not make each floor larger than normal so it's at a reasonable height, or make the foyer one-and-a-half times normal height... or just use some kind of a step ladder to access the portal?
      • Um, maybe I'm a jerk for saying it on a page like this, but the movie is intentionally surreal. All the bullshit behind how the magic of the portal works, how it came into existence, why it has to be on a "half-floor", etc. is intentionally unexplained and bizarre — that's how the movie is. If you're not turned off by the total bullshit nature of Craig's job, his job interview, the office building, etc. within the first few minutes of the movie, you should be willing to accept the rest of it.
      • It's on the 7 1/2 floor because he wanted it to be harder to stumble across; noone just hangs out where they'd get leg cramps, so there's that fewer people there. You even need to know a special trick to access the floor on the elevator.
  • Is anybody else bothered by the fact that the film seems to be set on a planet of apathetic sociopaths? Nobody cares about invasions of privacy, and Craig, Maxine, Lester, and Lester's friends have no objections whatsoever to basically acting as Yeerks. What. The. HELL?
    • I actually thought this was the most intriguing part of the movie- it's a good movie in spite of the fact that nearly everyone in it is a horrible person. The only reason we're rooting for Lester and his friends to succeed in the end is that they are comparatively less evil than everyone else. John Malkovich is the only character in the entire movie who's the least bit sympathetic, except maybe the monkey.
      • LESS evil? At least Craig only tried to do it to one person, and he didn't stalk Malkovich for his entire lifespan beforehand. You can root for them if you want, though I can't imagine why. I guess for the most part, they didn't cheat on their spouses and later hold them at gunpoint, but that's it.
      • I'm not rooting for Lester and his friends. I viewed them as by far the least sympathetic and human characters (they're just blandly, unapologetically evil, whereas Craig, Maxine, and Lottie are driven to evil by their human failings) and the result of their success in colonizing Malkovich is one of the creepiest things I've ever seen.
      • I personally found the ending ambiguous. It's entirely possible that Malkovich managed to somehow "repel" his would-be inhabitants, considering how much he'd been f***ed over by life for the previous 8 months. The degree of familiarity he showed with Charlie Sheen at the end of the movie couldn't have been faked by Lester & co. It would actually make a lot of sense, thematically, for the one person who's basically been Jones The Cat for the entire film to be the one who actually benefits from the portal by the end.
      • Nah, that's a neat theory but the movie pretty explicitly shows that Malkovich is now Lester. He has a room set up exactly like the one in Lester's house (only showing Emily), his hair has grown back all white just like Lester's and his outfit and mannerisms are very Lester-like, too. His familiarity with Sheen would certainly have been possible seeing as how seven years had passed (hence Emily's age during these scenes) since his becoming Malkovich.
      • Then again, I don't see why this should "bother me". I get the annoying feeling from reading these pages that some people think movies are required to make sense and that movie characters are required to behave decently or be karmically punished if they aren't. I'm not that interested in either as a goal of storytelling.
      • Fiction is not solely about watching people behave well.
      • There's plenty besides "everyone behaves well" and "everyone is completely amoral".
      • It gets to be a problem when one finds every single character save one to be morally repulsive, and when the movie seems almost casual about it. Worse still is the fact that it breaks suspension of disbelief. Consider that of all the people who learn of the portal, nobody has any problem at all with its use (remember the long line on the 7th floor?) - it would've only taken a single objector for Malkovich to find out. Same with all the people Lester invited to share Malkovich's body with him - for that to play out as it did would've required for not a single one to object, and therefore be willing to go public with the information about the portal, or just tell Malkovich. Perhaps worst of all is the scene at the end, where the aMalkamation is revealing the existence of the portal to Charlie Sheen, who they apparently are confident will cheerfully accept the fact that his best friend has for seven years been trapped in his own skull. And we, apparently, are supposed to believe this as well. I can maybe accept a claim that people, by and large, are jerks. I can't accept a claim that people who believe in right and wrong don't exist.
      • It should be pointed out that when Charlie Sheen is shown the room with the little girl, he is clearly weirded out by the collection of photos, and Lottie probably knows enough at this point that she could take steps to break the chain with her "daughter."
      • I just want to add that aMalkamation is probably the best Fan Nickname I've ever heard.
      • The people who paid to enter Malkovich's head didn't know how invasive it was, and certainly none of them tried to take over Malkovich's body - otherwise he would have gotten wise to the whole affair much sooner. Lester and his friends have no such excuse.
      • That's what's cool about the movie. If you don't like movies that intentionally shatter suspension of disbelief (if you don't get from the movie's opening scenes how much the movie is *intentionally surreal*) or you don't like movies that play around with our normal sense of right and wrong... then just don't watch this movie. There are plenty of other movies.
      • There's playing with our sense of right and wrong, and then there's running in circles around our sense of right and wrong, laughing maniacally and juggling grapefruit as you do so.
      • Also, the movie doesn't "claim" anything about the real world. The movie is not intended to take place in the real world. The movie is a funhouse mirror of our world. If you regard all movies as attempts to prove literal "claims" about the world we live in then you're going to have a very impoverished time at the cinema indeed.
      • The people in the movie are, by and and large, extremely desperate people. Craig is obsessed with Maxine to the point where he'll do anything to be with her, Lottie desperately wants the feelings she gets when inside Malkovich, the clients of JM Inc. hate themselves so much that they'll do anything to be someone else, and Lester and his friends are so terrified of dying they'll do anything to keep on living. It's not that they're sociopaths (except perhaps Maxine), just that thinking about the ethical dilemma falls secondary to their desperation.
      • Craig didn't have a particularly strong moral compass at the beginning of the film, and although he did bring up the ethical dilemma of selling time in Malkovich body at first, his need to be needed sorta won out.
      • It's not like no one in the cast was punished for abusing the portal and their general behavior Craig was trapped in Maxine and Lotte's daughter with apparently no hope of escape.
      • Yeah, but that just brings up even more sad realizations: the little girl we see at the end, having a happy childhood, will someday be a victim stuck in her own head. Consequently:
      • Really now, when it comes down to it, who would accept death when they could just take over someone else's body and live forever?
      • Me.
  • Where was Craig's BODY during the third act?
    • The same place it always is when he's inside: inside Malkovich's head.
  • Are all of the former victims of Lester now trapped within the bodies of others, unable to control their fate or speak and living forever? And I Must Scream for sure if this is the case, no?
    • I assume so. The first person got trapped inside his own subconscious, much like Malkovich, and then went with Lester into the next person, who also became trapped, and repeat ad infinitum. Yeah, it's pretty creepy.
    • This may or may not be true. It's fairly obvious that Lester only has one mind in his head at the beginning of the movie, so his former hosts probably regain control of themselves when Lester moves on to the next body. It would leave them to clean up a life that isn't entirely theirs, after perhaps decades of watching life like an unending film, but it's not And I Must Scream.
      • This also leads to Fridge Brilliance about exactly how much of an asshole Lester really is. His plan was to rope some so-called "friends" into going through the portal with him, then after a while dump them in the body of an aging actor/puppeteer, presumably while said actor/puppeteer berated them for taking over his life when Lester is the one to blame, while Lester lived a wonderful life in the body of some sprightly new host. No, he isn't a very nice person, why did you ask?
      • But Captain Mertin moves into Malkovitch with Lesters body, so he moves to control a new body while still inhabiting the old one, using the old one, actually.
      • Alternatively, the other personalities are either subsumed into Lester's, or dissolve in the mental backroom.
  • Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich, Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich? Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich, Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich?
    • Malkovich Malkovich!
    • Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich, Malkovich Malkovich, Malkovich Malkovich. Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich, Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich?
    • Malkovich.
  • Haven't watched in a while, so excuse if this seems wrong, but if Emily (the daughter at the end) is the newest host because she was Malkovich's daughter, does that mean Malkovich himself is the son of Lester/another host somewhere?
    • Or it's just a Contrived Coincidence.
    • I would assume so. If John Malkovich can play host, it's just as easy to believe that his mother/father was also hosting Lester and his friends before him.
      • Fridge Horror: A peek into Malkovich's subconsciousness shows that he was mistreated as a child. If Lester was one of his parents, maybe he was starting to break his will early, to make him a more malleable person to take over later in life?
    • Lester stated he was only bluffing when he threatened to kill Maxine (which given his actions probably wasn't for moral reasons) .
  • If Craig stayed in Malkovich during his 44th birthday, would he have become the new permanent resident like Lester and friends did?
  • If Craig is supposed to be trapped in Emily's subconscious, why is he experiencing everything she does when the subconscious was shown to be a random assortment of memories?
  • HOW in God's name do you identify John Malkovich, at night, walking with his back to you on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike, let alone have time to throw something at him and yell "Think fast!" while driving past him. Or does that guy just throw cans at EVERY bald guy he sees on the road in the hopes that it's the actual John Malkovich... (Nevermind the fact it was supposedly improvised, I mean in-universe how is it justified).
    • "Hey, is that John Malkovich?" "Yeah dude, I heard he lives near here." "Watch this, this is going to be so funny. Ok, turn the car around, get me up behind him...".
      • I don't think they were by the side of the road long enough for someone to do all that. *shrug*
    • Maybe he was really shouting "Hey baldie!", and "Hey Malkovich!" was Malkovich's subconscious not fully snapped out of the all-Malkovich world.
    • It was a case of Throw It In. The guy in the car wasn't supposed to say or do anything, but he was apparently drunk off his ass and decided to throw the beer can at Malkovich's head while yelling at him. Spike Jonze thought it was funny and used it. See item #5 here.
  • Why is Craig stuck in the girl's mind at the end instead of being ejected after 15 minutes?
    • As Lester previously explained to Lotte, Emily (who is the next host) is a young child—and in order to actually control the host, you have to enter his or her consciousness at the age of 44. Craig now has to live his entire life in Emily's head without control and without the ability to leave, because Emily is too young.
    • Actually, Emily wasn't born when Craig entered her head. That's why he's stuck there permanently.

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