Adaptation movie poster
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Adaptation movie poster

Adaptation Movie Review

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Charlie Kaufman, the strange writer behind such films as "Being John Malkovich" and "Human Nature," does the unimaginable and writes himself into the screenplay in "Adaptation," the latest delivery from the director Spike Jonze/Kaufman duo.

Nicolas Cage stars as Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter, as he finishes up work on "Being John Malkovich." He is bald, fat and not the best of socialites, and he has been hired to create a screenplay based on "The Orchid Thief." Unfortunately, the book does not lend itself well to the big screen, so, slightly going off the deep end, he incorporates him and his twin brother Donald (also played by Cage) into the story, while also trying to progress the characters of a toothless flower lover (Chris Cooper) and the reporter assigned to tell his story (Meryl Streep), who is also the author of "The Orchid Thief."

Since I have yet to hear of an absolutely normal movie from Kaufman, I was not at all too surprised to hear that given "The Orchid Thief" to adapt, he instead wrote a movie about writing about a movie that he has incorporated himself into two fold. Not many people can pull something like this off, but Kaufman does this with ease, and with the help of Spike Jonze's directing skills, "Adaptation" has immediately climbed into my Top Ten list for 2002. It is smart, it is funny, it is fresh.

"Adaptation" is so skillfully crafted that it is hard to explain. The multitude of layers going on in this film are enormous, but Jonze manages them well, never confusing the audience and keeping things rather simple. "Being John Malkovich" was funny, but it was a little too weird at times and just plain over-the-top. In "Adaptation," he takes a not-AS-strange screenplay and turns it into a not-AS-strange film, keeping things simple and doing things perfectly.

While the film is deep and has its dramatic moments, more than anything else "Adaptation" is funny. It's funnier than "Being John Malkovich" and many of the other movies that I've seen this year. The comedy is witty and direct, and will appeal to a broad range of audiences. Furthermore, it is enhanced by the stunning performance of Nicolas Cage, who should definitely earn an Oscar nomination for his dual portrayal.

Cage gets the rare opportunity of playing both co-stars in a film that is worthy of award attention. Charlie stutters, is depressed, and is utterly confused, while Donald (in real life, Kaufman does not have a brother) is more sociable, good with the ladies, and able to whip out a screenplay in no time. Nicolas Cage pulls off both roles incredibly well, turning in his best performance since the earlier days, since before he became an action star. This film should reestablish his credibility after a series of flops including "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" and "Windtalkers."

The other actors are incredible as well. Meryl Streep is fabulous, as is Chris Cooper, one of my favorite actors. He is incredibly underrated; he is hardly ever in a bad film, and no matter what, he always enhances even good films. Both could earn Oscar nominations, though Streep will probably be considered for her role in "The Hours," while Cooper, like usual, just won't be recognized for his achievements.

The only flaw of the film is the ending, which seems a little out-of-place... okay, really out of place. Perhaps this is Kaufman's way of intentionally conforming to Hollywood's standards, much in the way that his imaginary brother Donald does in the film, but is it really necessary? Does it make any sense? No, not really.

"Adaptation" is an unlikely candidate just because it is so fresh, but it has a good chance of being nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best [Adapated?] Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. This is a truly rewarding film.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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