Adaptation

I just don’t want to ruin it by making it a Hollywood thing, like an orchid heist movie or something, changing the orchids into poppies and turning it into a movie about drug running. Why can’t there be a movie simply about flowers? It’s like I don’t want to cram in sex or guns or car chases or characters learning profound life lessons, or growing, or coming to like each other, or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end. The book isn’t like that and life isn’t like that.

This afternoon I finally had a chance to see Adaptation. I really enjoyed Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich, so I had high hopes for this movie. In brief, Adaptation met my expectations, and exceeded them in some respects, mainly due to both Nicholas Cage and Charles Kaufman.

Nicholas Cage really surprised me, although probably because I have not seen Leaving Las Vegas, for which he won an Oscar. His portrayals of the two halves of Charles Kaufman are excellent. As Charles Kaufman, Cage is believable as a man who views his weight, baldness, and insecurities as a barrier to success. As his almost opposite in mind but not in body, Cage as Donald Kaufman demonstrates that these are barriers which can be overcome. Conversely, Donald Kaufman serves as a mirror to Charles’ worries that he is a fake, a lucky one-hit wonder who will be found out.

I enjoyed Kaufman’s use of the “movie-within-a-movie” technique, with the fresh spins: including himself in the movie but splitting the character into two halves, Kaufman starting to write the script to the movie we are watching while we are halfway through that same movie, etc. Some people may feel cheated or disappointed by the ending, but I saw it as an intentional, ironic and tongue-in-cheek twist which fit in well with the change in writing style. I especially liked how Kaufman killed off the one character he chose to kill off, for reasons which I refuse to explain here for fear of spoiling the ending. Let’s just say that I thought it tied everything up quite nicely and leave it at that.

Adaptation is one of those movies which I wouldn’t mind seeing again once it comes out on video. There are several delicious lines of dialogue, one of which is quoted above, which would be a joy to hear once more. There are very few comedies which can elicit that kind of praise from me.

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