There is a concept in mathematics called "recursion." It is a process of repeating itself in a similar way, or there is a phrase "snake eating its own tail." Kaufman and director Spike Jonze have apparently discovered the cinematic equivalent to this equation and phrase with the movie 'Adaptation.' Regardless of whether you appreciate the movie or not, it's likely to stay with you. And you might wonder, 'What the hell i had seen now?' The movie is about writers, who mutate their material according to their own drives and demons.
Plot"Adaptation" is a movie about adapting a book into a movie. Susan Orlean's book is about, a man named John Laroche who, along with three Seminole Indians, was arrested for stealing rare and endangered orchids from Florida’s State Preserve. Kaufman soon learns, there really is no story to be told. So, the real screenwriter 'Kaufman' has divided himself into Charlie and Donald (both played wonderfully by Nicolas Cage). While Charlie is repressed and neurotic, Donald is outgoing and relaxed completely.
Meanwhile, we also see Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). Despite being a successful journalist with a lovely Manhattan apartment , she has her own sadness, at having never felt truly passionate about anything. She finds that passion in the most unlikely of places: in John Laroche (Chris Cooper), who is an extremely intelligent and almost dangerously ambitious and egotistical man. Thus, in his screenplay the real 'Kaufman' miraculously interweaves Charlie and Donald’s story with Susan and John’s, finding ways to connect them narratively and allowing them to reflect each other thematically.
Now, just to be clear about this, Susan Orlean and Charlie Kaufman are real people. And the real Kaufman did indeed attempt to adapt the real Orlean’s acclaimed nonfiction book “The Orchid Thief” — based on her earlier New Yorker article — into a film. However, it’s safe to say there was no affair between the 'real' Susan Orlean and 'real' John Laroche. So, “Adaptation” is poking fun at the deformities the movie-making process inflicts on real life.
AnalysisOne intriguing aspect of Adaptation is how Kaufman portrays himself – as a fat, balding, aging man with such a severe case of self-doubt that he can't bring himself to approach a woman. In reality, Kaufman is nothing like his on-screen counterpart, nor does he have a twin brother. (Donald Kaufman, who is given co-credit for the script, is entirely a figment of the real Kaufman's imagination.) Nicolas Cage puts in his best work as the two screenwriting brothers. He totally disappears into the roles. He has become this insecure, self-loathing writer and his brother who, despite sharing the same shortcomings, adapted to use them to his advantage.
Chris Cooper's depiction of John Laroche is colorful and convincing; it earned him the Academy Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor. Meryl Streep proves that she is a great actress. She gives a solid performance as Susan Orlean. The movie comes across as chaotic, which I'm sure is intentional. And, director Jonze does his best to bring a kind of order to the proceedings. We also forget about the inevitable use of trick photography, so seamless Cage's acting with himself is.
In some ways, the ending—however absurd—is the only one that could have worked. Secondly, we have to remember to whom the screenplay is credited (Charlie and Donald). This creates an entirely different level of pleasure in trying to determine which parts of Adaptation were penned by Charlie and which parts were penned by Donald, and the ending has the Donald’s signature all over it.
|Real-life Charlie Kaufman|
'Adaptation' is a bizarre and surrealistic movie. I hope that Kaufman's 'writer's block' is not contagious. And, I hope that my revelation about this movie doesn’t make you to distrust me as a reviewer. Any way, don't miss this wonderful movie.
Rated R for language, sexuality, some drug use and violent images.