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Director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman are first class nut jobs. I mean that as a compliment, for their new picture Adaptation is a spectacularly creative entertainment, much more so than their previous collaboration Being John Malkovich.
Nicolas Cage seamlessly carries off a wonderful dual performance as twin brother screenwriters Charlie and Donald Kaufman. Charlie struggles to adapt a novel called The Orchid Thief (no, I've never read it) while energetic Donald has absolutely no problem hashing out a generic actioneer that Hollywood Producers seem to instantly fall in love with.
We are also given a story within a story, as we meet the characters within the novel that Charlie is adapting. They are wonderfully played by Meryl Streep and the amazing Chris Cooper.
Adaptation plays as a sort of metaphor for writer's block, and while similar subject matter was displayed more brilliantly in the Coen Brothers' vastly underrated Barton Fink, Kaufman and Jonze have fashioned a compelling tale about what it's like to be a writer.
After penning Being John Malkovich, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was at a loss as to what he should tackle next--so he decided to use this quandary to his advantage. Adaptation is an intimate, in depth look into the world of screenwriting, not only giving a satirical glimpse into the world of big studios, but a look into the mind of the writer himself. Kaufman isn't afraid to poke fun at his own insecurities as a writer either. How literally this eccentric character is actually based on himself is beyond me, but it makes for great entertainment. In Adaptation, Kaufman even gives us insight into the making of Being John Malkovich adding to this odd, creative achievement.
Jonze's direction is extremely innovative and very unpredictable, and thankfully, Adaptation never feels self-conscious despite it's "inside joke" approach.
There have been complaints about the detour that the final act of this picture takes. It's certainly open to interpretation (some say the final act of the film is directly from The Orchid Thief) and while I was a tad underwhelmed by it, I feel like Jonze and Kaufman have given themselves total license to go wherever the hell they want with this movie because of it's subject matter. I did not like the direction that Kaufman ultimately took Being John Malkovich. That stuff with the elderly people was just silly to me, and because of it, the movie as a whole, was a let down. The abrupt, change of pace in Adaptation by contrast seems more acceptable because this is essentially a story about imagination and writer's block.
While certainly flawed, Adaptation is more often brilliant than not, and I greatly admire it for it's innovation and willingness to attempt something fresh and exciting. Originality is not easy to come by in movies these days. In an age of processed blockbusters, Adaptation earns high marks for attempting something truly novel.
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