Adaptation. (2002) starring Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Jay Tavare, Maggie Gyllenhaal directed by Spike Jonze Movie Review

Adaptation (2002)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation. (2002)

Getting Lost in Adaptation

As I sat watching "Adaptation." various words came to mind such as fascinating, self indulgent, interpretation and quirky but then so did these short words "clever, maybe too clever". And that is the thing about "Adaptation." it is undoubtedly a clever movie with a concept which sort of flips from being biographical to fictitious which forces you to think about what you are watching and keeps you thinking long after the movie has ended. But at times it is too clever for its own good and you are left thinking through what you have watched that you are not paying attention to what is then happening. It makes "Adaptation." a movie which you not only find yourself needing to watch again to try and truly get to grips with but also investigate due to the semi-biographical element which interweaves with fiction.

So to try and explain what goes on in "Adaptation." we have this story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman who whilst his latest screenplay is turned into a movie is given a non-fiction book on Orchids to turn into a screenplay. This causes him many sleepless nights as he doesn't want to turn this story in to typical Hollywood fodder but finds keeping it real is much harder than he imagines. Coupled with his own sense of self loathing and his brother Donald deciding to write a screenplay after taking a writing course things become very difficult for Charlie until he comes up with the brain wave of writing the screenplay about himself trying to adapt the book into a screenplay.

Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean in Adaptation. (2002)

Have you ever seen what happens when a video camera focuses on a TV showing what the video camera is pointed at, "Adaptation." is a little like that because this is the movie adaptation of the screenplay which the real Charlie Kaufman wrote as he struggled in adapting the book on orchids. So yes that does immediately not only makes the cogs of your brain kick in to gear but also alerts you to the fact this is a self referential movie. But in a way that is the simplest part of this movie which then throws in fictitious element such as Donald Kaufman yet Donald is one of the credited screenwriters of the movie. Plus we have an ending which conjures up events long after the book which Kaufman is adapting was complete.

Yes that is all confusing and even now having watched "Adaptation." a few times I still find myself frustratingly going around in circles as I try to deal with the movies logic. And that is the problem with it because it is clever but also too clever as it twists real life with fiction with this, that and the other. But it is also clever in that it is a movie which is then open to interpretation as we deal with the fictitious character of Donald because is he the physical form of what Charlie wishes he was or is he there as a manifestation of the Hollywood element with him writing a by the book screenplay. Talking of which there is the ending to the movie, the sell out action packed ending full of banal dialogue, is this just parodying the system or is it saying something a lot deeper. It is why I guarantee that if you watch "Adaptation." right up to the end, and I can understand why you might walk away, you will then be constantly trying to make sense of it hours or even days later.

Now here is the thing "Adaptation." has a lot of good performances from Nicolas Cage reminding us what he can do when given an interesting, challenging character to cameos from various actors such as Catherine Keener being themselves. It also has a lot of great cinematography and that element of surprise when things happen out of the blue which combined with dry comedy makes it a very well made movie. But here is a thought, is "Adaptation." a great movie because of its originality and the ability to make you think about it again and again or has it been called a great movie because it is different to the norm. This is a dilemma because at times it is too clever forcing you to seek explanation and validation of your own thoughts and to me any movie which gets to the point that it needs to be explained to be understood and enjoyed is not a great movie.

What this all boils down to is that "Adaptation." is a unique sort of movie, a movie which blurs the line between life, fiction and movies in such a way it forces you to think hard about what you are seeing and what it means. Whilst I liked that and liked the originality of "Adaptation." there were times that I felt it was too clever for its own good and is why I find myself not as passionate about this movie as others.