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AdaptationAdaptation
2
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, and Tilda Swinton
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Written by: Charlie Kaufman

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Bluntly speaking? Adaptation is one of the smartest films I have ever seen. It's intelligent, clever, witty, warm and, I'll spare you the thesaurus, it's a masterpiece!

To expect the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman to top his brilliant Being John Malkovich would have, should have been unfair . After that icky-off Human Nature many fans (okay...me) thought perhaps BJM was just lightning caught in a bottle. Nope-sca-dope-ski kids! Adaptation may actually top it - and that is quite a feat.

The story is complicated, yet quite simple. We follow Charlie Kaufman (yes the screenwriter-as interpreted by Nicolas Cage) as he gets hired to adapt a bestseller into a film. We join him as he lunches with the studio executive (Tilda Swinton) who is trying to win him over. He's a wreck. We listen to his inner dialog as he tortures himself with doubt, self-loathing and hysterical phobias; a real screenwriter.

Charlie (Nic) leaves the lunch with the job. He visits the set of his screenplay in production, Being John Malkovich, which comes complete with cameos of the cast for added realism (and brilliance). Then Charlie heads home.

Here we meet his identical twin brother Donald (also Cage). Donald is the polar opposite of Charlie in persona. He's gregarious, open, one of those happy people with a lust for life in general. Don's also a struggling screenwriter who prefers serial killers with multiple personality disorders and blockbuster formulas. He is also sweetly in awe of his brilliant brother. You following? Okay.

So the book Charlie is commissioned to adapt, "The Orchid Thief," is written by a New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). He immediately has a difficult time for several reasons; he falls smitten with the writer, he hates the brouhaha of the flowing New Yorker style (it lacks details he lives for) and he's so ethical he fears he'd end up ruining the story as she would want it told.

We flash back to our hero in "The Orchid Thief," John LaRouche (Chris Cooper) as his life is happening years before. John's in the middle of the everglades, in the middle of a heist; he's stealing endangered orchids so he can sell them to hungry collectors. He's a sleazy looking fellow with missing teeth, greasy hair, and filthy clothes. That whole nine-yards- of- trailer- sod - after-a-thunderstorm look. But when New Yorker Susan meets him and starts to pen her story, she falls under a spell of sorts and into his world.

Meanwhile we jump back and forth from Charlie present day, trying to adapt her story, to her creating her story. And eventually the two shall meet. It's a film about a film being made, while it's being made, that's been made! Adaptation is utter brilliance and a true bit of cinematic genius. Kaufman throws in a lot of industry jokes like the struggle between product and market, the silly terms "LA" people use in conversation, screenwriting cliches, plot fumbles etc., etc.. He doesn't miss a joke, a beat, or a syllable. This is perfection. I may just have the found my once illusive, unstampable, irrevocable "favorite film." Hmm though I do still adore The Royal Tenenbaums, Frailty, and The Shipping News...I take it back..

Nicolas Cage is back on top. He should be getting a set of golden trinkets this awards season. His performance as both Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman was mesmerizing. Yes, I said mesmerizing. Those still bitterly bitter over his gigantic accent faux pas in Capt Corelli's Mandolin will once again be tipsy with this fine drink of man.

He's got balls too. I mean looks-wise he's none too handsome in this! Yechy-poo-poo. His frizzy Gene Wilder-esque hair is balding, his belly puffy and paunch; Nic is basically Carrot Top meets Newman gross. While you slip into the brilliant script (because viewing is mandatory) remember he's really a six foot-something slab of premium choice manmeat one would like to sauté in the heart fire's of love. He's a real yumm-a-tini. The fact that he's a bit warped in real life just makes this bad boy even more delectable. MEOW!

Meryl Streep as fragile Susan is impeccable. Gosh, she's just always perfection. This woman does it all. She pours onto a screen magnifying her subject and drawing you in…bewitching. She makes little girls want to act! She too should be in line for bric-a-brac from the people who adorn these items on the few "noticed" actors.

Chris Cooper, who is a chameleon, almost steals the movie from Cage. His John was wonderfully complex for a simple man. Not a simpleton. That's the magic. When you first see him, you're thinking, "uh-oh stereotypical redneck straight ahead." But then you remember Charlie Kaufman wrote this and get that warm fuzzy feeling again. Purr.

Spike Jonze worked his magic as well. The script certainly isn't easy to string together coherently, and without flaw. He and his stellar, dare I say perfect, cast do just that. Keep your eye out for tons of neato keen cameo and surprises…

Snack Recommendation: Ghost Orchid blow (I hear it's amazing) and LA Pasta.

 


 

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