Being John Cusack: What Went Wrong?

John Cusack in Being John Malkovich

USA Films

Once upon a time, John Cusack was the epitome of understated greatness. His CV wasn’t a flawless one, but an interesting one, littered with interesting film choices that seemed to be just that — choices — with very few money pics.

Then, something went terribly wrong. And the only answer is one of his best movies: Being John Malkovich.

Look. I’m not saying that there is a clearly insane person living inside John Cusack’s head and making his professional decisions for him. I’m just saying there isn’t not a clearly insane person living inside John Cusack’s head making his professional decisions for him.

Let’s go to the list.

Before Being John Malkovich, there was this.

John Cusack career before John Malkovich

via Wikipedia

And after, there was this.

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

I mean, this isn’t a shift that is severely Brando-ian or starkly DeNiro-esque. But there is a shift. Something happened. There was High Fidelity, one of my favorite movies, and then absolute garbage, with the singular blip of Grace is Gone which was quietly decent. He went from Con-Air to Con-Air ripoffs and rejected Michael Bay scripts, which is actually impressive in its awfulness, making him his very own Gobot. He went from eschewing his ’80s rom-com past to actively and willingly participating in America’s Sweethearts and Must Love Goddamn Dogs (the “goddamn” is silent). Did you know that he actually did significant rewrites for his character in ML[G]D? Because he did. He rewrote a character in a shitty romantic comedy to make it less shitty and somehow managed to make it worse because what he wrote was a sadder, older Lloyd Dobler or an effusively more pathetic Rob Gordon.

So, what happened? Did he peak out from the corner, thinking “I’ve made, like, 10 really good movies, so I’m pretty much done now. Fetch the coke, whores and a roomful of Roland Emmerichs!”?

“What came first–the music or the misery?” is not the question we must ask. It is, “What demon lives inside John Cusack and drives his terrible acting decisions, and is it John Malkovich having a major laugh at everyone’s expense as revenge for a minor diva hissy Cusack had on set one time?”

Let him go, Malkovich! Your evil must stop for the good of mankind!


Courtney Enlow is the features editor for Film School Rejects.

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