Adaptation is a movie I feel any writer can relate too, whether it’s a scriptwriter, a novelist or a young blogger just getting started (AKA me). This comedy/satire/drama is about a fictionalized Charlie Kaufman (the movie’s writer) who is trying to adapt The Orchid Thief, and quickly gets writer’s block after realizing the book doesn’t have the dramatic structure that a movie needs.
The real Kaufman’s script for this movie is ambitious, risky and bold. In the hands of a lesser writer, this movie could have fallen flat on its face, but Kaufman shows he is truly talented. He’s able to give commentary on the business side of Hollywood, book to movie adaptations, anxiety, love, life and probably a bunch of other things I’ll pick up on after a second or third viewing. Despite all of these themes, the movie still has a natural flow and never feels overstuffed.
Nicolas Cage is brilliant as the fictional Charlie Kaufman, a middle-aged man in a mid-life crisis induced by is inability to write this script. He also plays Donald Kaufman, the completely fictional twin brother who is a seemingly dimwitted and shallow party animal who is also writing a script that Charlie has the utmost disdain for.
Despite Nicolas Cage’s great performance, I’d say the best part of this movie acting wise is Chris Cooper’s amazing portrayal of Jack La Roche, the subject of The Orchid Thief. Although the viewer may initially think he’s a simple redneck, he proves to be a fascinating character who is highly intelligent and philosophical. It’s easy to see why he won an Academy Award for this role. Meryl Streep, who plays Susan Orlean, the author of The Orchid Thief also does a fantastic job. The chemistry she has with between Susan and Jack is great, even if it’s somewhat predictable where their relationship goes.
I think the only character that was unnecessary Marty, Charlie’s agent. I felt his dialog was a bit too on the nose, especially when he refers to his attraction to women walking past. Thankfully Marty doesn’t have much screen time.
Most of the direction is effective, but there is one scene later on in the movie which takes place at night and it’s very obvious there is some unnatural lighting on the actors even though they should be in near total darkness. This movie also isn’t quite as visually appealing as Her (another movie directed by Spike Jonze) but still looks good for the most part.
I can see some people being bored by the first half of this movie. That’s not to say it’s actually boring, but as one might expect in a movie which has a theme of writer’s block, not a lot happens initially. Some might also find Charlie to be rather unlikable and pathetic if they are conditioned to the heroes of most Hollywood blockbusters. Adaptation expects the viewer to pay attention and think about everything that happens during the movie’s runtime.
Overall if you have an open mind, Adaptation will provide plenty of entertainment, and provoke many thoughts. I’ve grown to like this movie more since my initial viewing and I really do wish to watch it again soon, and that’s certainly not something I thought I’d say about a movie where Nicolas Cage masturbates on three separate occasions.