In which I fully describe the plot of a movie I’ve never seen and know nothing about, based solely upon its Netflix picture.
The Object of Beauty is a film from 1991, starring John Malkovich and Andie MacDowell. It began production as a romping romantic comedy against the backdrop of London, with the working title Oi Guv’na, Who’s That Brunette Bird? John Malkovich was to play a Cockney cab driver who falls in love with a passenger he keeps picking up by chance (MacDowell). Malkovich took the role, as he did all his roles from 1988-1997, without reading the script or seeing the work of his future costars. This would be the cause of a series of effects that resulted in the movie we have today, The Object of Beauty.
Malkovich had only seen pictures of Andie MacDowell before the first day of filming. Their meeting was cordial that morning, and they began filming a scene where Malkovich was to pick up MacDowell at Heathrow for the third time. Her wooden delivery and subtle, out-of-place accent immediately threw Malkovich into a fit that halted production for the day. He held a heated conversation with the director, writer, and one of the producers outside the cab while MacDowell remained in the backseat. She sat motionless, staring at nothing for the 45 minutes that the others hashed out their problems, her thoughts a mystery to everyone including herself.
Malkovich railed against the casting of MacDowell, saying he couldn’t possibly shoot a romantic comedy with her. However, a series of bad investments and late night poker games with Jim J. Bullock had resulted in a massive debt on Malkovich’s part, and he couldn’t back out of the film. They quickly scrambled to come up with a new plot that would allow Malkovich to work properly with what MacDowell was (or wasn’t) giving him. At one point Malkovich looked into the cab, where MacDowell was still sitting motionless, staring without blinking. He said “Look at her. That’s no actress. She’s just this beautiful…object.” They landed on a second-act twist that would have Malkovich murder MacDowell’s character the fourth time he picked her up in his cab, exhausted by her clumsy and tone-deaf efforts at flirting with him. This twist is foreshadowed in the poses for the poster above. Upon closer examination, what appears to be a romantic embrace is actually Malkovich preparing to snap MacDowell’s neck. The rest of the film was an examination of the psychological spiral Malkovich’s cabbie followed, racked by guilt for taking a life but exalted at what he saw as a blow for “masculine creativity.”
While the final film hardly won over critics and went mostly unnoticed, once the true story of the production’s history became known The Object of Beauty found a second audience among hardcore film buffs and misogynists.