Jens' Review of Adaptation
Charlie Kaufman is probably one of the few screenwriters around that is known for being a screenwriter, without being a director too. He have also done the extraordinary thing of being more famous than the directors he's worked with, and for once we have a writer that gets the credit he deserves. Do you remember who directed "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind"? Adaptation is his semi-autobiography, his eight and a half. It's a great insight of how a writer thinks. It's all of Kaufman's thoughts, his writer's blocks that drives the story.
This is the story: The successful screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage), who's had a great success with the script for "Being John Malkovich" is having problem with adapting Susan Orlean's (Meryl Streep) best selling non-fiction novel "The Orchid Thief" into a screenplay. The novel focuses on her investigation around the orchid-stealing red neck, John Laroche (Chris Cooper) who seems to have a great passion for Orchids. A passion that Susan wished she had. But the book ends with something that seems to be an unfulfilled love affair hidden in the subtext, which seems to be the problem with the story, since nothing between Susan and John not really happens, which Charlie find hard to adapt. So instead he decides to write a screenplay about himself trying to write the screenplay, which of course is the movie itself.
Adaptation is loosely based on Kaufman's own experiences of trying to adapt the novel. With loosely it means that for instant that Charlie also has a twin brother named Donald (also Nicholas Cage) who's a big fan of structured Hollywood storytelling, and sees the famous story guru Robert McKee (Brian Cox) as his idol. While Charlie wants to be as independent and original as possible. Donald Kaufman does not exists. It's clearly one of Charlie's personalities, an inner struggle between the structured story telling and the original and pessimistic storytelling, with on-screen narration where Charlie constantly thinks for himself "I'm fat, I'm ugly, I'm Bald".
It's a wonderful meta film, or something deeper than that. Like a screenwriter's Inception. It's a story about a story under development, it seems to take form while we watch it, a character written story. Remember when Jeff Daniels played a character on the silver screen in Woody Allen's "Purple Rose of Cairo" that suddenly jumps out of the screen and into the real world. In Adaptation it feels like the opposite, that the writers jumps into the screen to fix the movie and give us the ending we desperately need. And it also show us all the storytelling techniques and cliches that no matter how hard we try, we can't hide from them.
Other things besides the amazing screenplay is the amazing cast, with Nicholas Cage in one of his greatest performances, who kind of resemblance Gene Wilder's character in The Producer, in sense of look and lack of self confidence. Cage does a great job in giving us two different performances, with such a big contrast, but at the same time a great comical chemistry, because they are in-fact twins. Meryl Streep give us as always a superb performance, but it's Chris Cooper who steels the show, with his southern accent, missing front teethes and with a red neck attitude that is a great contrast to his love for orchids. He really deserved that Oscar.
My conclusion of Adaptation is that it's a great meta meta film, with one of the most original screenplays that jokes about the story structure itself, by breaking it on purpose. It's specially a treat for those who have read Robert McKee's book to look at this film with admiration and wondering. But it doesn't matter if you have read the book or not, because his lectures in the film give us a great insight into his theories. Adaptation is simply a screenwriter's joy, and it's also an inspiring film for those who might want to become a writer, no matter what medium. Thumbs up.