Ten Thousand Bytes of Cinematic Critique
Adaptation. is a movie about writing a movie which sort of becomes the movie you are watching. Crazy, no? It's a very interesting, non-traditional approach to making a film, but (or so) it created a unique and engrossing product. Like watching a movie with time travel, however, it took me a little bit to digest. The film is about two brothers, both portrayed by Nic Cage. One brother is Charlie Kaufman, the real life writer of such films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the other is Donald Kaufman, a fictional entity created for the purpose of the film. Charlie is writing an adaptation of a genuine book written by Susan Orlean (as played by Meryl Streep), which in turn was based on an article Orlean wrote about John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a horticulturist. For purposes of Adaptation., Orlean and Laroche are portrayed in a fictional manner (i.e. the course of events described in the movie are not how reality played out). Donald decides to become a screenwriter, and while Charlie struggles to make an artistic film true to Orlean's book, Donald is writing a typical Hollywood popcorn flick, which is pure trash (although the "technology vs. horse" scene is intriguing). However, Donald has much success with his screenplay, becoming friendly with all of the people that ignore Charlie on the set of Being John Malkovich, getting a hot girlfriend that laughs cheerily at his idiotic tendencies, and gets his screenplay picked up by a major studio. I was initially annoyed about the last third of the film, but then I realized the quasi-brilliance of what was going on. The first 2/3 of the movie are in the style of Charlie, but when he eventually asks his brother for assistance, the style changes into the mode of Donald, and all of the things derided as nonsense by Charlie earlier in the film come to play at the end of the movie. In other words, Charlie says he doesn't want to cram in a bunch of things that he finds stupid because the "book isn't like that, and life isn't like that," but all of those things wind up in Adaptation. anyway once Donald becomes involved with the fictional screenplay about the fictional movie. The fourth wall isn't exactly broken here, but rather it's sent into another dimension where it shatters every thirty seconds and quacks like a duck. Besides the many loops and levels of the actual screenplay, the characters are enjoyable, too. Nicolas Cage gives a good performance as the duel Kaufman brothers, playing a neurotic Woody Allen style Charlie and a goofy Donald. Cage gets knocked for not being a great actor, but I believe the man fits into his roles quite well; hence, if you give him a good script, he can deliver it, but if he decides to go for the money and make a Ghost Rider, then he's not going to elevate above the shoddy writing (according to my colleague Jai; I haven't seen the film). Here, Cage has a golden part and doesn't stumble with it, instead giving it the proper shine (gold shines, right?). Streep comes off a little bit like someone who knows she's a great actor and thus are watching "Meryl Streep as Such and Such" instead of simply the character, but mostly she is able to shape her part to fit into both the Charlie and Donald styles. Her character has a forlorn quality that Streep manages to pull off without making her seem whiny or melodramatic. As for Cooper, he won an Oscar for best supporting actor, beating out luminaries like Paul Newman and Christopher Walken. He did well enough to deserve to win, although I don't think he necessarily stood out from the rest of the cast. Judy Greer of "Arrested Development" fame has a brief appearance as a waitress. She has a wonderful set of breasts. Adaptation. is part comedy, part drama, with fleshed out characters and a solid cast. The true reason to see this movie is the script, however, and Kaufman really delivered a doozy. There's not many films like Adaptation., er, .
I should watch Adaptation., it sounds interesting... and, I really do think Cage is a competant actor when he has a competant role to play - I loved Lord of War, he was awesome in that. And he was okay in The Weatherman, I just felt that the role required practically nothing of him - though the movie was not poor and ludicrous like Cage's most-recent crap flicks. And Next looks so bad. Argh.
This dollar bill is trying to tell me something...
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