Monday, June 06, 2011
There are far too many remarkable things about Adaptation to fill an entire post with trivia of how it came about but foremost among them is the fact that this is perhaps the only movie of it's kind where the screenwriter of the movie
a.) is the protagonist of the movie
b.) and what the screenwriter goes through in the movie is what he went through in real life while adapting this very script from a book called The Orchid Thief.
A variant of a circular reference to reality if you life.
The movie begins with an aim to be about flowers- something that had never been done before in Hollywood. Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), the protagonist finds it incredibly difficult to put together something that he's happy with for the on-screen adaptation from the said book. What's even more unnerving for him is that in the same time, his twin-brother Donald has put together a pulp thriller script that has been sold for millions while Charlie is more than struggling with his writer's block. Charlie thinks meeting with the author Susan Orleans (Meryl Streep) might be a step in the right direction but is tongue-tied to discuss anything with her and in a scene laced with shocking reticence, the asocial Charlie lets that opportunity pass him by. As Charlie sifts through Susan's book, we're introduced to yet another arresting character, John Laroche (Chris Cooper), the subject of the book himself, who with his charm and knowledge of flowers seemed to have impressed Susan while she was writing The Orchid Thief..
The story moves back and forth from Charlie Kaufman's present reality in the movie to the flashback of Susan's and Chris' trysts. This is typical of Charlie Kaufman, the writer in real life, who has shown his forte in this style of writing that involves a non-linear narration, with stellar previous movies such as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I must confess here, I am having to read my sentences time and again to make sure if all this is reading right and one can only imagine how mind-boggling it must've been for Kaufman to write this keeping himself as the center of all the action. In director Spike Jonze though, Kaufman seems to have found a partner equally whacky enough to pull this one through. While Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper, round up a commendable support act, Nicolas Cage shines in his double role act. Whether it's the brooding and boring Charlie Kaufman or his antibody- the flippant and flamboyant Donald Kaufman, Cage pulls off both acts like it's a walk in the park. It would be only fair to say that this till date has been his best performance ever, even ahead of Leaving Las Vegas. What might've worked even better in the movie is perhaps a slightly less-dramatized climax towards the end that results in a couple of murders out of nowhere.
I've heard movies being mentioned as character-driven or plot-driven in the past. What Charlie Kaufman renders in Adaptation is a neat blend of both and, for once, one can say that this is an indulgent screenwriter's movie. Whether you're studying screenwriting or practicing it, Adaptation will have some pleasant surprises for you. Suffice to say that, it is an education- don't miss this class.