on August 25, 2003
I'd hate to have been plopped in front of a screen to watch 'Adaptation' without...
...having seen 'Being John Malkovich'...
...knowing of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's intense self-loathing...
...knowing that with Spike Jonze at the helm, anything can happen (and usually does)...
...understanding the cult that has grown up around screenwriting guru Robert McKee.
With all that as background, it's a fun movie. Without that knowledge, it'd probably be like navigating Tokyo without a map. Pretty close to impossible.
One comment about the action itself: for a movie that starts slowly and deals with the ostensibly sedate subject of flowers, Jonze has inserted the two most realistic, violent car crashes ever caught on film.
And that alone tells you all you need to know about the unexpected road this movie travels down over the last hour.
on January 14, 2004
Nicolas Cage(Matchstick Men, The Family Man) has done it again...he's done it many times really but he pulled off another brilliant performance as the twin Kaufman brothers...fun and nicely directed by Spike Jonze(Being John Malkovich, Three Kings )who also has a cameo as himself in this movie..this is one of the best of 2002...you wont be dissapointed. also starring Brian Cox(25th Hour, The Ring2002), Litefoot(The Indian In tEH Cupboard,Kull The Conqeuer), Maggie Gyllenhhaal(Secretary, Cecil B. Demented), Chris Cooper(Matewan, The Bourne Identity2002), John Cusack(Identity, High Fidelity), Catherine Keener(Being John Malkovich, Johnny Suede), John Malkovich(Con Air, The Dancer Upstairs) and Meryl Streep(The Hours, Angels In America)...great fun and seeing Cage tackle twins is more fun
on November 9, 2003
In the 1960's I read a rather minor science fiction story about a frustrated writer. During the course of the story he developed a computer program that would generate random sentences. He then turned the computer loose to print millions of lines every day hoping that a novel would eventually come out. He had lots of frustrations--including the computer writing 3/4 of a wonderfully good novel. Unfortunately, he wasn't a good enough author to finish it.
The last two lines of the story were a repeat of the lines that began it--giving the impression of a computer writing a story about a computer writing a story...
I hadn't thought about this story in years but after watching this movie I did. And one of the thoughts was that I liked the old story better.
on June 24, 2003
This movie was brutally honest. Half way through their first date, the waitress kisses Charlie and removes her top. It's just a dream. When Charlie asks her out for real, she's horrified.
It's incredibly brave, too, because the sceenwriter- both in real life and in the movie- wrote about himself, his brother and the author of the novel the film is based upon- without bothering to change any of the names. The result is a masterpiece. Even with the weird twist at the end, for which I considered taking off a star, emotions remain real and profound. This was a very good movie, with moments of hilarity, sadness and hope. It was as if they had a camera on me when they were making it.
on September 5, 2003
This self-aggrandizing autobiographical screenplay has virtually nothing to do with Susan Orlean's fascinating book "The Orchid Thief", which is about legal inequality at the Federal level. Instead, Kaufman insults his employers character and our taste & intelligence by insisting that no one will see any film that doesn't have drugs, sleazy sex and high speed chases - none of which appear in Orlean's fine book, but are substituted by Kaufman for the entire premise of the original work. Some of Kaufman's past work was novel and entertaining. This screenplay is, at best, depressing. Read Orlean's book instead.
on October 19, 2003
The one truth in this movie is when screenwriter Charlie reviles himself for turning a screenplay about The Orchid Thief into a screenplay about himself. I agree! Cage as Charlie is embarrassing - he seems to be trying to copy Woody Allen. The only good moments here are provided by Streeps and Cooper (Streeps is especially good). The rest is a waste of time. And the concluding segment, where Charlie gives in to his twin Donald and produces an "action" ending, is just silly. Very disappointing! I had high hopes and simply don't understand the enthusiasm others have expressed.
on June 2, 2004
The two most wildly innovative screenplays I have seen filmed are "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation" - both written by Charlie Kaufman. Note that I am not saying "the two most satisfyingly entertaining" - much of my enjoyment of both of these films are due to the sheer audacity of the labyrinth-on-drugs plotlines. I won't attempt to give anything away or bother covering what this story *is* as there are hundreds of other reviews you can read for that. What I DO want to say is that I feel Mr. Kaufman's screenplay is a joke - at his expense - and that he's trying to let us in on it. When his character is finding it difficult to impossible to adapt Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief" he writes himself into the story, THEN writes in his fictional twin brother who attends a "screenplay-by-numbers" class taught by Brian Cox and writes a big bucks by-the-numbers screenplay.
An abrupt change occurs in the final act of the movie when (here's my interpretation) Charlie caves in and decides to resolve the movie in a "hollywood-big-action-suspense-thriller-by-the-numbers" way. I won't give away the details, but the real hero of "The Orchid Thief", the author of that book, the screenwriter and his fictional twin brother all collide in a weird swampy film noire ending that isn't funny "ha-ha", but funny in an "isn't it ridiculous when Hollywood makes films that have to conform to formulas?" kind of way.
You're welcome to your own interpretation, but I liked it. Don't expect to get deep into these characters, because by the end you hardly know "who's who" - but as I said up at the top: this is one of the two most original film's I know of.
on May 21, 2004
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper.
Running Time: 114 minutes.
Rated R for violence, language, and mild sexual situations.
One of the most stunningly original films of the past decade, "Adaptation" is a triumph of uniqueness, hope, brotherhood, and perseverance. Director Spike Jonze tells the story of Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), a chubby, poor self-esteem stricken screenplay writer assigned to adapt the Susan Orlean novel about flowers into a film. As Charlie learns more about Orlean (Streep) and her obsession with the quirky Orchid lover John Larouche (played by Oscar-winning Chris Cooper, who was long overdue for the recognition, for he should have won for "American Beauty), he realizes even further that he does not possess the qualities to write a formidable script based on the book.
While he is attempting to write a script and loosing his mind in the process, Charlie is encouraged by his upbeat, yet overly annoying screen-writing brother Donald (also played by Cage; they are twin brothers) to write the story in a more traditional, Hollywood style. Charlie refuses this notion and flies to New York to meet Orlean in search of the perfect idea for his script. Through this journey, Charlie learns about what it means to love, what his purpose in life should be, and how a simple thing such as an orchid can change lives.
What makes "Adaptation" so intriguing is that it is a film about a screen-writer who is writing a script about the actual events that are transpiring on film. Jonze takes us on a crazy ride of emotions, through the troubled mind of Charlie, the desiring soul of Susan Orlean, and the zany antics of the grisly-toothed Larouche that envelopes around a theme that will touch all those who grasp it. Cage is wonderful as the joint brothers and Streep is stellar as usual in her supporting role. Although not for all due to the different beating of its drum, "Adaptation" is an essential piece of the modern film puzzle and truly a work of film stylistic art at its finest.
on May 20, 2004
isnt it strange that everyone that likes this film thinks that those that dont simply have not understood it? surely if a large number of people all consider something misunderstood by others, there is a degree of consensus that the film has not been understood. and i do not doubt that all those people are mightily intelligent, but it is clearly true in the field of philosophy that genius is apparent to those who do not possess genius because some element of said genius resides in the ability to convey the brilliant in a simplistic package. if that is correct, which i suppose it might not be, then this is not genius, since it is so methodically misunderstood. anyway, understanding, appreciating and enjoying are clearly very different things and sometimes weird is just plain weird. sometimes weird is intricate and clever. sometimes weird is plain, stupid and pointless. i would also surmise that every film of this type generates a series of people that consider it to be each of these descriptions.
unfortunately for me, i found this utterly and incontravertibly boring. if i had to make a stab at it i would guess that charlie kaufman thought it would be funny in an andy kaufman kind of way to satirise himself making a movie about satirising himself. this movie plays like an in-joke. if you can laugh with the writer then by all means laugh. i didnt even manage a chuckle.
what i found puzzling was that chris cooper and meryl streep put in excellent performances that deserved so much and yet not even these could elevate such a wantonly introspective script. i don't much like nic cage, i dont think he is a great serious actor, he gets far too hammy and should stick to black comedies and action. maybe this is black comedy and i have missed the point? sadly i just dont care.
the cinematography in the swamp scenes is superb.
i salute kaufman because he has either created a masterpiece or a terrible film and even if people criticise it as the latter he can adopt a knowing grin and point to all the smart critics who have delved so much deeper and know the true meaning and know that this is, undeniably, a masterpiece. a successful exercise in back-patting mr kaufman. however, when were you planning on engaging your audience instead of either ignoring them or laughing at them? artistically your approach might be a stroke of genius, but as entertainment i found nothing commendable or absorbing.
so this is a 1* effort, but you might find it deserves 5* and maybe that is the genius of it, or maybe it is the fatal flaw. if i hate it, am i missing something? only that you need not ask yourself that question, in my opinion....
i cared far more about the orchids than i ever could about this film.
on May 6, 2004
It's about the closest thing a two hour movie can come to being profound. We each view a movie through our own perceptions, understandings, intelligence and experience. No two people see the same exact thing in the same exact way. Many people came away from Adaptation and felt nothing or dislike and those are legitimate reactions. It's arrogant to say a person doesn't understand something you like just because they don't care for it. What I get out of Adaptation is an understanding about personal growth. Charlie Kaufman (Cage)is the main character. His brother, an identical twin, is an alter ego of Charlie. Susan Orleans (Streep) is a lonely unhappy woman who is afraid to let the unfulfilling parts of her life go. John Laroche (Cooper) is an essentially decent but profoundly disturbed man who reinvents himself with every new interest but deliberately fails to learn from his former selves. In order to change and grow and become the people we want to become, we have to let a part of ourselves go but learn from that part. Kaufman's road is a sad, difficult, tragic, ironic road and he is better off for having traveled it. To me, the movie is about the tragic possibilities of life.