Monday, February 9, 2009


Adaptation; Grotesque, USA, 2002; D: Spike Jonze, S: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Brian Cox, Ron Livingston, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman gets an assignment from Valerie to write a screenplay of reporter Susan Orlean's non-fiction book "The Orchid Thief". The book chronicles how Susan met John Laroche, a fanatic flower fan who is looking for a mysterious orchid. John had a car crash in which he lost a part of his teeth, his aunt and uncle. Charlie quickly realizes his bizarre imagination can't start anything with the gentle story about flowers while his twin brother Donald writes a script for thriller "Three" with ease. Charlie and Donald meet John and Susan and thus discover that they are killers. Donald dies, John is killed by a crocodile, while Charlie writes his screenplay about his adventure.

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman wrote in "Adaptation" a half-true story about himself as the main character (!) writing a screenplay in order to adapt the book "The orchid Thief", which offered a whole bunch of self-references and ironic toying with reality: the film has many genius, but also many irritating-pretentious scenes. In the opening shots, Kaufman (not the real Kaufman, but played by Nicolas Cage) is touring the set of his first film "Being John Malkovich" (!) and contemplates about his life and it's meaning - there's a cut that shows scenes of lava coming from a volcano (with subtitles stating it's Hollywood in Precambrian), the appearance of microorganisms, fishes, dinosaurs and in the end, humans. Equally brilliant is the scene where Kaufman is in his thoughts "narrating", but when his mentor for writing screenplays, Mr. McKee, warns his students: "And don't let me catch you using a narrator in your scripts!", his inner voice instantly shuts up.

But the 2 Golden Globes, for best supporting actor Chris Cooper and supporting actress Meryl Streep, and Oscar for Cooper, were given completely desultory since their characters are rather useless: yes, it's clear that Kaufman was making an ironic jab at "selling out" when writing a screenplay for big budget movies when he promised how he won't write cliches about "characters who change or grow" in the first half, just to do exactly that in the second half of the film when John and Susan turn out to be killers (!) so John gets killed by a crocodile while Susan starts pathetically speaking: "I want to be a baby again!" It was meant to be funny, but alas, director Jonze completely missed the point and directed that whole finale as a deadly serious B action flick that seems banal and arbitrarily. The real Kaufman lost himself in the context - despite the ironic metamovie references and his creativity, here he simply lacks humor, while the grotesque touch is tedious.


No comments: