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3.5 out of 5 stars
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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on April 22, 2004
I remember walking out of the theatre and saying "that was one of the most brilliantly written, brilliantly acted movies I've ever seen." And it was. Nicolas Cage puts together a performance that actually tops his stellarness in "Leaving Las Vegas." What a complex set of characters he plays (twins with totally opposite personalities) and he pulls it off amazingly.
The supporting cast is first rate as well. Meryl Streep's character is complex, but as usual, she pulls it off, in fact we've come to expect this kind of performance from Ms. Streep that we sort of just take her for granted. She's excellent nonetheless. Chris Cooper is worthy of his best supporting actor role, he deserved it.
The story is a tangled web that weaves the story and the story Nicolas Cage's character is trying to write together - sort of reality and alternate reality. Sounds complicated, but when you consider this movie was put together by the same guys who came up with "Being John Malkovich" I guess we shouldn't be surprised.
Line of the film "It's not about what loves you bro, it's about what you love..."
An absolute must see!
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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
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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.
--MMW
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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.
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