Adaptation

I've seen many parts of today's movie - Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze in 2002 - before today. I often saw it in screenwriting classes. Obviously because the film is about screenwriting, it is educational in some way. I always liked the parts that I saw, but I never watched the whole thing until now. I'm glad I finally did! It's such an awesome and different film. I guess it is a little bit educational about screenwriting, as well. I know that I could certainly relate to the main character, Charlie's writing process. He does exactly what I to - trying to set up reward systems for himself ("If you write, then you can have coffee"), and eventually, out of frustration, writing himself into his screenplay. I think I've done both of those things before!

It's going to be really hard to write about this movie without spoiling it, and because I so badly don't want to spoil it, I'll probably keep this post a little short. I think probably everyone should watch this movie, and I'd feel terrible if I ruined all the best parts!


The movie follows Charlie Kaufman as he tries to write an adaptation of the rather boring (for film, anyway) novel The Orchid Thief. It's written by Susan Orlean, and about John LaRouche, a crazy orchid hunter. He gets Seminole Indians to steal them out of state parks so that it's not actually illegal (since it's their land anyway). Charlie isn't really too inspired by the book, although he is fascinated by it. It's hard not to be, because it's full of interesting facts and characters. However, not much happens, and no one really changes. Technically, there's no reason to write a screenplay. Charlie has got serious writers block. Meanwhile, his roommate, Donald, his twin brother, has decided to follow in his footsteps and become a screenwriter himself. He has a "genius" idea for a screenplay about a serial killer with multiple personality disorder (the killer is actually the victim and the cop). I feel like I've written a lot of plot, but that's just the set up! The rest of the movie is how Charlie gets over his writer's block, and he uncovers all sorts of interesting things in the process.

Nicholas Cage is great in this. I'm very much not a Nic Cage fan, and I've always been perplexed at Ebert's love for him. However, I've seen a few astoundingly good movies with Nic Cage in the lead for this project, and I sort of understand why he came to love him so much. He's seriously amazing in this. I never thought he'd be capable of playing twins so well (my favorite twins ever are still from Dead Ringers, but that's because of my unnatural feelings for Jeremy Irons), but he really shocked me here. You can really tell Charlie and Donald apart, just because Cage's acting is so great. He manages to create totally different body languages and tones for each brother, and you know who they are just from how they hold their heads, basically. It's great to watch him in this, and I gained a lot of respect for him. Well, for his past acting. I have no idea what sort of nonsense he's up to now.

Also, it was great to see Chris Cooper do something other than be a CIA agent or FBI agent or cop or whatever. He must have had a lot of fun in that role, LaRouche is such a crazy and strange character. He's missing his front teeth, he's totally eccentric and off the wall, and it had to be blast to play him. Honestly, everyone had to have had fun in this film. Meryl Streep got to play an author who is a bit odd, too, and that had to be all sorts of awesome. It was just exciting and fun to watch everyone.

I loved the screenplay because I could relate to so many aspects of writer's block. I think I've written a screenplay where I too once wondered "What do you do in a film where not much happens?" The film is just so well written. You don't have to care about filmmaking or screenwriting to appreciate it, either. It's so witty and clever! I don't want to go and explain all the jokes since that's so horrible, but I promise that they are funny. I love that the movie combines great humor with great drama.

I just liked everything about this movie! It was shot really cool, as well. I like Spike Jonze, he seems like he has a different sort of eye than most directors. I loved the little scenes where we saw parts of books being acted out (even Darwin!). The editing was quick and interesting, and there were lots of cool shots and scenes. It had a really new and fresh feeling to it. Ebert brings up the point that the movie could have very easily just been a documentary, but I'm so glad that it wasn't. It really shows the genius of the writing and directing that they stayed with that choice.

This is just an awesome film, great for people who just want to see something unique or for people like me who love any movie about movie making. It's fun to watch, full of great humor, but also tension and drama. The acting is outstanding, and it's really neat to see actors we know in such interesting and different roles. I hope that you check this out!

Have any thoughts about Adaptation? Share them in the comments!

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Adaptation
Buy it on Amazon

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