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Adaptation

December 9, 2013

Adaptation (2002)
Director: Spike Jonze
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper

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Synopsis: Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) battles against his demons and low self-esteem while commissioned to write a challenging screenplay about the relationship between a novelist and enigmatic orchid-thief. At the same time, his heathen brother, Donald (Nicolas Cage), achieves unlikely success with his own, more hackneyed genre screenplay….

Review: This riotous portrait of the principled writer adrift amid Hollywood’s industrial machine and the commercial tyranny of story/character/action, functions somewhere in-between a sly celebration of the writer’s inherent sustenance and adaptability versus a more forlorn, futile view of their obsolescence against the system.

Of course, intellectual, idea-heavy movies like this toy with becoming self-defeating in that their deconstructionist bent can preclude any notion of actual dramatic watchability (an error the Coen brothers’ spy spoof, Burn After Reading committed). Thankfully, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman are able to keep Adaptation progressively lucid and amusing through the clever revelations of their postmodern musings – not only is there the obvious twist at the end of the orchid thief subplot taking on the pulpy genre twists of Charlie’s brother’s scripted machinations, but throughout the whole narrative we’re forced to contend with just what exactly is the film’s empirical perspective, and where the double-backs and stories-within-stories begin (if indeed they do at all – echoing the abyme of Jonze/Kaufman’s previous collaboration, Being John Malkovich, which Adaptation is a temporally literal spin-off from). (December 2013)

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