on April 15, 2004
Whether or not one likes this movie does not matter. The fact is, it's one of the most creative films to come out of the Hollywood machine in a long time. It is well scripted, well directed, and, of course, well acted. My theory is that most people who dislike it don't understand it. The first half is supposed to be horrible, because Charlie Kaufman is parodying himself by creating an "artsy" screenplay. The first half is meant to appeal to an indie crowd. This is intentional, because he is in contention with the ideals put forth by McKee. When his brother takes over, he puts McKee's formulaic ideas into practice, complete with ridiculous plot twists and a "Hollywood" happy ending. In this way, Kaufman brilliantly criticizes formulaic screenwriting and his own pretentions. Those who don't get it need to read more. Non-linear storytelling has existed for quite awhile and isn't going away any time soon. Also, if you don't like a movie, please learn how to spell. Poor grammar will only take away your credibility
on March 14, 2004
Hah! Adaptation is wholly original like Frankenstein, a creation of bits and pieces of everything come to life against all probability. Unlike Frankenstein, Spike Jonze's "Adaptation," lives in the end and is quite a hoot along the way.
I so wanted to only throw four stars at this one, as the film literally adapted from a meandering meaning of life, finding oneself, journey, to guns and swamps and murders and drugs and alligators. Though it plays along with the conceit true to form, along the way it felt lost. But happily, screenwriter Donald Kaufman saves the day bringing it back full circle, back to the meaning.
Cage seems like an odd choice to play a younger sort of fatter Woody Allen sort of character in Los Angeles, but in the end he too pulls it off. We realize what a performer Cage is when the audience doesn't blink an eye trying to figure out which twin brother screenwriter is who (both played by Cage).
When all is said and done the movie is just so much fun. And added to the fun, we get some things to ponder. Things like, where does reality leave off and art begin, how do people derive meaning in their lives, why is it such a thrill to Be John Malkovich, what's the connection between insects and flowers, how did Nicolas Cage get fat, are voice overs useful, and especially this one, "We are what we love, not what loves us."
I'm not sure I've ran into anything else quite like Jonze and Kaufman's "Adaptation," but it's added a new wrinkle in enjoyable originality. Don't be the last person to see this movie and don't go stealing Orchids.
on March 1, 2004
I wanted to like this movie but just couldn't.This is a sad case of the filmakers "high on themselves" and in my opinion must think they are "legends in their own minds."True if you are a screen writter, film maker, some Hollywood hotshot or journalist this movie could be everything you want it to be.For me I just wanted to witness Nicholas Cage in another great role in a good movie. It's just Nicholas Cage in another one of his dozen bad movies. Cage's acting is well done and the best since "Leaving Las Vegas", but not as outstanding just for the fact the characters in this movie are not likeable, nor is the story any good. It was very boring not to mention also very depressing. Some comical aspects are in this movie but the filmakers are WAY OVER thinking this whole project of just a movie.The filmakers are so "high on themselves" that it's almost emmbarrasing to the average movie go-er to bother even watching.This is the kind of CRAP the Hollywood bozos like to call art and amuze themselves with I guess. In no shape or form would I call this David Lynch wannabe any form of art. As a average movie go-er looking for a good comedy-drama, this one just plain stinks and the only thing that held it together was the acting in the movie.Too bad it couldn't of been redone with a better outlook on life and alot better ACTUAL WRITTING. Which is what the movie is about. I suppose half the reason this movie stunk, IN MY OPINION, is because the writters must've had writter's block and nowhere to go, or only to peddle this bad movie to their Hollywood buddies that would approve.I suppose if you like the kind of movies where Hollywood people are into themselves, then this is your flick.Wanna see a REAL movie? Rent "The Big Lebowski" for some good writting for a dumb movie. Plus it's actually funny and not depressing like this one.I wanted to like this movie, but I ended up hating it. The bad acid-trip like story telling and writting overshadows Nic Cage's acting and just makes this one a mess in my opinion.I have also recently noticed that on amazon if you write a public "opinion" review of a movie, ESPECIALLY a movie that has fans, basically "fanatics" of a certain movie, they give you bad ratings. These are the same David Lynch fans that never can ever explain what they just seen, so they call it "a form of art". I respect other opinions of movies and if they enjoyed it then good for them.But my review is for those that if your NOT into the whole "Hollywood scene" then I would figure they might not like this movie. I found nothing facinating about this movie. It was like a bad "Twilight Zone" boring Hollywood drama IN MY OPINION.
on February 29, 2004
The movie is a send-up of the ubiquitous Robert McKee Storytelling Course, a screenwriting boot camp that most screen writers attend at one time in their life. In the film McKee is played perfectly by Ronnie Cox and coaches a confused and blocked screenwriter played by Nicholas Cage into bringing drama into a simple film about orchids. Cage is convinced that we need not have victory culture seeping into each and every movie, rather some movies are simple visuals delights. "Don't waste my two hours," bellows Mckee in a fashion recognizable to all who have attended. Thereafter the film, which is a film about a film being made, starts to follow McKee's storytelling structure which is further derived from Hellenic story telling principles. Strange and bizarre things begin to happen to the most mellow and common of people, Cage's "brother" turns out to be an alter ego. There is a car crash, a chase through a swamp and a finale of the protagonist being eaten by an alligator, a sequence that leaves the knowing rolling in the aisles with laughter. Hints are given early in the film that it shall turn this way, a McKee Storytelling course schedule taped to a refrigerator, a mention of it in a brief conversation with a hilarious agent. I can see that non-writers got a charge from the film by reading the other reviews, although I don't know how they could make sense of it without knowledge of McKee; but if you are writer and have been subjected to the dogma of Greek storytelling methods you will have the laugh of your life with this one.
on February 22, 2004
If only the filmmakers hadn't tried so hard to be clever.
When I first saw this film, I was enthralled within the first half hour. I was charmed by the writing, excited about the images and direction, and pleasantly surprised by the quality of the acting, especially the solid, nuanced performance of Nicholas Cage, an actor who had previously underwhelmed me on a fairly consistent basis. (Not to mention Chris Cooper, whose Oscar was well-deserved.)
Then, the last 20 minutes happened.
I never expected a traditionally "satisfying" ending; it seemed clear to me early on that this was not a conventional movie, made to amuse the masses. I was not expecting to be happy about or even comfortable with the film's conclusion; I was not expecting the filmmakers to effectively give the audience the finger, either.
I actually found the ending to this movie insulting. The story builds to a climactic scene, but instead of confronting the characters' conflicts, the plot suddenly takes a nonsensical turn. An artificial conflict suddenly moves the story toward a contrived "Hollywood" ending, despite the film's previously clear stance against such cheap devices. Some say that this is the "genius" of the movie; this is not genius, it's thematic relativism, and it's achieved through mental and emotional sleight of hand.
On a repeat viewing, I noticed earlier signs of the filmmakers' disdain for their audience: the bar scene between Cage's Kaufman and Brian Cox's puffed-up lecturer character effectively outlines the way that the real-life Kaufman brothers manipulate the audience's sensibilities to to create a "successful" movie. It's as if they're saying, "we're going to mess with your heads and confuse you so much that you think it's art, but not only that, we have so little respect for you that we'll covertly reveal EXACTLY how we're going to do it... and you won't even realize it!" Of course, one can't be sure whether this is fully intentional or simply the product of laziness or creative drought; with such obviously gifted screenwriters, however, there is no excuse. I do not believe that Charlie and Donald could not have come up with an appropriate ending for their story... for I really do believe that they had a story to tell, a story that was worth telling, even if it was rooted in a kind of backhanded narcissism.
When I watch Adaptation, however, I have trouble retaining any faith in the brothers by the end. Even if they are successful, conscious attempts to be tricky or "clever" are cheap and unworthy of those with artistic integrity.
I would see this movie again for the quality of its writing and performances, for the beautiful imagery, and for the surface messages, even though I doubt the sincerity behind them. After all, the truth is still true even if those who profess it don't believe it is.
I would not buy it, however. I will not reward "artists" who seem to openly promote the idea that the public is incapable of thorough analysis, original thought, or strength of belief. If I am not worth the filmmakers' best efforts, then their creation is not worth my money.
on February 19, 2004
Last Xmas I brought my recently purchased "ADAPTATION" dvd to my brother's, and we sat down to watch. I had already prepped them as to the basic storyline and the award nominations.
After 15 minutes into the movie I turned to my brother and his wife asking if they wanted to watch something else. I asked the question because I was embarassed at how bad the movie was so far. They were kind and said they'd watch it thru to the end. In actuality, they both nodded off from sheer boredom.
I had high hopes for the flick since Meryl Streep and Nick Cage were both favorite actors plus the buzz had been so favorable. Nick's performance actually made me uncomfortable. It appeared too mannered and I could not feel any sympathy for his plight.
Meryl is just plain beautiful to watch but again an unsympathetic character.
Chris Cooper kept what momentum existed in the movie going with his performance, and I found Cara Seymour to be very endearing.
And the last 20 minutes of the movie appeared contrived and a bit pointless.
I must state here I enjoyed "Fargo", and loved "Raising Arizona" and "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" But I cannot recommend this movie. The two star rating is based on Chris Cooper's performance and the opportunity to see Meryl Streep on the screen.
on February 12, 2004
...make that a 3.5. This one's a disappointment, as is true of many sophomore efforts. The idea of mauling a New Yorker "This story is really about me" essay is brilliant, but... Well, several people mentioned the Coens, and that's the failing right there: it comes nowhere near to their level of inspired lunacy. We're promised a good trashing, and it just doesn't happen.
Instead we get what seems like hours of staring at Charlie Kaufmann's misery and angst, much of which is played straight. And when we finally switch to "Donald" mode for the last half-hour ...that's done with a straight face too, exactly as if it was a cheapo made-for-TV thriller and nothing more. Too many McKee seminars, if you ask me.
Still, it's fun to watch Cage play both sides of a truly creepo duo, and how many times have you seen Streep in a trashy role? I do think Cooper has been better elsewhere, though.
So this not the magic swamp orchid everybody was expecting. But Jonze and the Kaufmanns may have one in them. It'll pay to keep watching.
on January 31, 2004
ADAPTATION is a hilarious movie. If you've every taken a writing class, are a creative writer, watch tons of movies, or know about the film industry it is just too much fun.
Nicholas Cage plays two characters in the film in real tour de force performance. He actually seems like two people. He plays Charlie Kaufman, who must adapt a book by Susan Orleans to the screen and he plays Donald Kaufman, the twin brother that has the most clichéd ideas about film scripting. And yet, and yet, Donald's "original" script is accepted, while Charlie is still trying to get a bead on The Orchid Thief and its author.
The movie takes a melodramatic adventure turn and I was rolling on the floor at how the real Charlie Kaufman managed to have his cake and eat it too. The film's conceit and concept is so tongue-in-cheek, we the viewing audience have no idea what is suppose to be real or not real. Film isn't real anyways, and yet we contemplate what is real in the film. It's so convoluted, it make the head spin.
This movie plays with our heads. It makes us laugh and think at the same time. What is the nature of reality? What is the nature of film? As an audience didn't we like that melodramatic part? What is the writing process really like? Don't writers have as split personality, one that thinks too hard and fails to act, and one that doesn't think at all, but embraces the surface all too easily?
This movie is too fun and must be experienced to be appreciated to its fullest. No review can tell you about it.
on January 29, 2004
Was not a big fan of Being John Malkovich, finding it very silly, repetitious and drab. This was something else, it kicks in and pulls you in with some of the most creative and unexpected twists you will find in movies these days. Nicolas Cage's performance was absolutely inspired as Charlie (and Donald) Kaufman - why he wasn't picked to play Willy Wonka, I'll never understand. The frustrations of a writer are told perfectly and as the story unwravels along with the evolution of "The Orchid Thief" seeing how both the characters in the movie and book both grow throughout the film - and seeing how the Donald side of Nick Cage was coming through Charlie, etc, etc. - so much to take in, think about, interpret, laugh with - and simply seeing such great actors make wonderful performances seem effortless as they bring these characters to life is what makes movies so darn wonderful. In a year when you had such drivel as Punch Drunk Love (a not-so-funny, and very bad parody of art/indy/foreign films), Adaptation was a Godsend.
on January 13, 2004
Well, I haven't gone too much out of my way to see the really twisted movies of our time, but this one fell into my lap & so I watched it. When it was over, I didn't really know what to think because it messed with my head so much.
To start, you have this guy (Cage) who is supposed to write the screenplay for "The Orchid Thief". His character is developed as your stereotypical creative genius - brilliant, elitist, trying to work out of his depth & intelligence but really suffering as he does so, anti-social, introverted & basically unhappy. People love his work, but you really feel sorry for the poor guy.
It seems simple, but the script keeps adding in such quirky details that your mind is constantly being overstimulated...first off, they have part of the set from "Being John Malcovich" and the actors in their costumes from that set, so your mind wanders to think about that movie for a bit (especially if you've seen it). Then you have this main screenwriter's identical brother enter the plot - a character who Cage is also playing - and you sit there wondering how Cage did these shots where he talks to & wrestles with himself.
And then you start getting drawn into the story of a journalist (Streep) who wrote the book "The Orchid Thief" which the screenwriter is trying to adapt. You learn that her life is obviously the cliche of the successful & wealthy yet incredibly unhappy & empty American. She has everything she should want for a happy life, and yet she keeps wanting more...she wants some sort of passion in her life.
And then, in yet another layer of the story, you get to learn about the actual orchid thief...a redneck type character down in Florida who has an unexpected passion for orchids. He is the only one who seems to be an enviable character because he has some sort of deep fulfillment in his life...and yet he has neither money nor culture nor the admiration of many.
The set-up might seem clear, but the progress of the plotline certainly isn't. The storyline starts interweaving these character's lives in such ways that your head starts hurting trying to figure out if it should be able to happen at all.
And, all through this, the movie is clearly trying to make a point about passion & fulfillment, but what is it? Streep chases after it, but does she actually find it? The main screenwriter is surely the creative genius of the two brothers, but which one would you rather be?
As you try to sort such things out, the plot suddenly twists again to become an action movie - complete with guns & a car chase. This is so unexpected that you leave your questions hanging in mid-air while you try to figure out who you want to "win" seeing that you've become pretty attached to all these characters.
The final kicker, really, was that someone told me that one of the characters was supposed to be imaginary....?
So, yeah, and when you think about the fact that this movie supposedly came out of the screenwriter's assignment to adapt "The Orchid Thief" (in real life) and that this is what he came up with, you begin to marvel at the depths & intricacies of the human mind...or at least I did.