Adaptation

Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Cara Seymour
Director: Spike Jonze

After lapping up the critical success of the bizarre but brilliant BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, writer Charlie Kaufman finds his crazy creative juices entirely spent. His subsequent project ADAPTATION, squeezed from the last few drops, is equally bizarre but not quite as brilliant.

Synopsis: After lapping up the critical success of the bizarre but brilliant BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, writer Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage) finds his crazy creative juices entirely spent. His subsequent project THE ORCHID THIEF, a screenplay based on the non-fiction book by Susan Orlean, doesn’t get past the first page as he’s all out of creative juice. THE ORCHID THIEF is actually a real-life book written by the real-life Susan Orlean – a meandering affair that would be nigh on impossible to adapt for the screen. Hence the worst case of writing block Charlie has ever experienced.

His twin brother Donald (Nicholas Cage) exists in the film but not in real life (even though the screenplay for ADAPTATION is credited to Charlie and Donald Kaufman). Donald is also an aspiring screenwriter, without his brother’s brains or scriptwriting know-how, but this doesn’t stop him from writing a stock action-packed blast-fest blockbuster, much to Charlie’s despair as he struggles with his own peaceful project.

It unfolds that Charlie is neurotically shy and useless with women. We see him on the set of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, standing around in the background, saying hello but being ignored by John Cusack and the cast, and watching his brother casually chat up attractive film crew members. In a desperate bid to get his script started he tracks down the author Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) but, upon finding her, can’t bring himself to speak to her. She herself has been shadowing her book’s subject – a toothless orchid thief (Chris Cooper) – with whom she descends from her famous career into adultery and illegal drugs. So we are left with the crazy screenwriter following his crazy subject who is following her crazy subject and when all their paths cross, more crazy stuff happens.

And there you have it. ADAPTATION is not as confusing as it sounds but every bit as mad. It’s actually quite interesting how such a lack of creativity can be expressed in such a creative way. In the end, the movie-Charlie decides to cure his writer’s block by writing about his writer’s block, so we basically end up with the real-life-Charlie writing a script about himself writing a script about himself writing a script. The final product – ADAPTATION – is BEING JOHN MALKOVICH without the laughs. Or John Malkovich. Oh hang on… John Malkovich does make a cameo appearance as himself on the set of BEING JOHN…

4 out of 6 stars

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