Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Adaptation.

Film #244

THE PLOT

A lovelorn screenwriter turns to his less talented twin brother for help when his efforts to adapt a non-fiction book go nowhere.

Year 1, Day 245

BEFORE: After a short break, it’s time for the second movies of the day Adaptation.. This is actually an addition for this chain (so, not really fitting the leftover idea but whatever) as it forms a nice mini-Meryl Streep chain. This also marks the first Spike Jonze film in the marathon. Jonze is better known for his short films and music videos but I really liked his debut film Being John Malkovich so I’m curious to see how Adaptation. plays.

AFTER: Like Seven Pyschopaths I found myself taken aback by the sheer audacity the writer Charlie Kaufman has for writing a film about writing a film. But the thing is Adaptation. is more than that. The meta-ness is just the style; what the film is really about is flowers - or is it?

Right off the bat I have to commend Kaufman for his extraordinary and original writing. He also wrote Synecdoche, New York which had it’s own unique idea to it. For Adaptation. I think what I liked the most was the fact that it felt alive. Obviously the entire thing was written and made before I sat down to watch it, but the film feels very much like a choose-your-own-adventure story where Charlie Kaufman (also a character in the film played by Nicolas Cage) makes the decisions. It feels as though you’re watching the story unfold as Kaufman is coming up with the ideas of what could happen, how can he write the next scene, who could this character meet? While reading about this may make it sound gimmicky, I can assure you it’s not. While a film like Seven Psychopaths used it to great effect for humor, Adaptation. uses it to great effect to emphasize one of the points of the film: the randomness of life. It’s not just a film about writing a film, you also get the entire story of orchid thieves from the novel this film is “based on”. At the same time, both of these stories make you constantly question what is real, what is fake, and what those terms even mean in the first place.

Going off of that, I’d like to talk about a specific aspect of the writing: the characters. Usually when I talk about characters in a film, as most people do, I talk about the actors and the wonderful or horrible job they do. While they play a big part in this film, a large portion also has to go to Kaufman for his creativity. Not only is this film highly self-referential and meta, but it also plays with your sense of reality. In many ways it felt like a Christopher Nolan film where I was left with my mouth open, puzzled as to what is going on. They way the characters are written, and played by the actors, everyone and everything the do feels real. Charlie Kaufman (the character - based on the author), his twin brother Donald (also played by Nicolas Cage), Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), and John Laroche (Chris Cooper) are the main characters. Some are real, some are created, some are a combination of the two. And not only are they written in this odd and interesting way, but the actors do a flawless job at brining these complicated ideas to life.

Adaptation. receives full marks not just for it’s originality and unique twists on storytelling, but for being able to take such a crazy idea like this and make it work so well. The bizareness and style never goes to far to be unbelievable; it’s at the perfect level to provide entertainment as well as keep you questioning things. My recommendation: go see Being John Malkovich first, then come back and watch Adaptation.

RATING: 5 out of 5