"Charlie Kaufman writes the way he lives... With Great Difficulty. His Twin Brother Donald Lives the way he writes... with foolish abandon. Susan writes about life... But can't live it. John's life is a book... Waiting to be adapted. One story..."A lovelorn screenwriter turns to his less talented twin brother for help when his efforts to adapt a non-fiction book go nowhere.
Adapt Your Thinking
While taking a break from studying for my calculus final (a brain-draining
exercise to say the least), I sat down to write out this review on what was,
no doubt about it, a brain-draining movie (in an offbeat but good way). Of
course I expected this from `Adaptation', for last month, in every major
magazine, it has been touted as a mind-twisting ride, which piqued my
Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage), by his own admission, is a loser. By my
viewing, that's a fairly accurate description-if you add neurotic. Anyhow,
Kaufman is a talented screenwriter, who, after writing what is his `script
of a lifetime' (`Being John Malkovich), he takes on a project that is over
his head-adapting Susan Orlean's (Meryl Streep) book, `The Orchid Thief'
into an amazing film about flowers that will stun and amaze
The plot diverges here. One path follows Kaufman along the road to the
inevitable breakdown of writer's block that forces him to jump from idea to
idea in vain attempt to write a screenplay, until he commits the cardinal
sin of screenwriting-writing himself into the script. This is not helped in
the least by his hack brother Donald (Nicholas Cage) successfully working on
his own script (a complete antithesis of his own).
The other road follows Orlean as she goes about writing her book three
years earlier. The book is about a dentally challenged Floridian orchid
thief, John Laroche (Chris Cooper), who is personable enough to cause Orlean
to fall for him, his drugs, and his outside-the-law lifestyle.
As you might well imagine, this is not your usual Friday-night flick. The
complexity of three separate, yet interwoven plots (Laroche the thief,
Orlean writing about the thief and Kaufman writing about the writer writing
about the thief) is stunning and the end, for those who will get it (I did
not at first) will blow you away once it hits you…I'll give you a bit of
help in knowing why the ending works later on. Oh, and Charlie (but not
Donald) Kaufman, Susan Orlean, and John Laroche are all real people, which
will make the film infinitely easier to understand.
Nicholas Cage is amazing. To have to carry out the performances of two
different characters is certainly a feat, but to do it with such widely
disparate characters like the Kaufmans is really nothing less than wondrous.
Not to be outdone, Meryl Streep is superb, especially in the third act of
the movie when her character becomes a more physical one. As for Cooper,
well, I don't want to insult the guy, but he comes across as a redneck hick
and a shyster, which is exactly what the script demanded.
All glory praise and honor for these fine actors would be for naught, had
it not been for director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman (see that
name before?). What they have done is simply amazing and is a tribute to
their brilliance. Visually, the film does not stand out much (except for the
fast-action evolution sequences that are worth their while). In short, kudos
to the entire staff.
I promised earlier to give you some help in figuring out why the ending
works…before I thought of this nugget of info (instead of studying
anti-derivatives), the ending had me confused and slightly angry. The key to
the ending is in the opening credits, in the line `Written by Charlie and
Donald Kaufman'. Good luck in comprehending the ending. I give this film my
first 10 of the year.