Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) has chosen puppeteering as his career, and you can imagine how profitable and successful that can be. When he finally gives in and finds a real job, he discovers a secret door behind a filing cabinet. Entering the door provides a fifteen minute visit into the brain of John Malkovich, and then the visitor is dumped by the side of the Jersey Turnpike. After a few visits Craig and Maxine (Catherine Keener) start selling tickets. And then things get weird.
John Malkovich eventually discovers what's going on, and even makes the trip himself (which is one of the funniest scenes in the film). He's not too pleased with what's happening, but before he can do anything about it Craig inhabits him and discovers that, using his puppeteering skills, he can not only control Malkovich, but can avoid being booted out at the end of fifteen minutes. He decides to take up a permanent residence, and Malkovich's career makes some dramatic changes.
This is a good movie that could have been a great movie. The high ratings given to it by most critics illustrate how much their critiques are influenced by novelty. It is very original, and it deals with some intense ideas, but it could have been greatly improved if it were a little more Hollywood and a little less arty. The absence of background music, for instance, gives many of the scenes a sterile feel. The editing is more art school than it needs to be. The artyness gets in the way of the humor too often. And the lighting and color balance were bad in several scenes.
But it's worth renting. You'll enjoy it, just don't expect it to live up to the expectations most critics have saddled it with.