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Adaptation back to product details

Survival of the Factual
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written by RJones3 October 7, 2007 - 6:06 PM PDT
The title is a pun on the term from evolutionary biology. It applies social Darwinism to the act of making a literary work suitable for the big screen, appropriate wordplay in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. Perhaps that is why the death of Charlie Kaufman's twin brother Donald is reduced to an episode in Charlie's attempt to write a screenplay based on Susan Orlean's book. Donald, who is safely fictitious as the more natural talent, reveres his brother as the family genius. In the end, it is survival of the factual. Whether you regard this movie as self-indulgent and narcissistic or refreshingly funny will depend on your tolerance for elaborate hoaxes. Opinion is widely divided. The movie is self-reflective as a story about writing a story, where some of the characters are from real life, others are fictitious, and still others play themselves. One does not play a joke of this sort on the film industry without being pretty well established in the industry to begin with. The joke, for this reason, can be annoyingly self-congratulatory or amusingly esoteric, again depending on your viewpoint. One point needs to be made about the central character, brilliantly acted by Nicholas Cage. Charlie is a hopeless neurotic, which is often thought to be characteristic of genius. Actually, for every symptomatic genius there are countless neurotics whose inability to get out of their heads, as the movie puts it, makes them merely tiresome and pathetic. Judging from the schlock ending that Charlie comes up with for his adaptation, he probably falls into the latter category.

a great and reflective film
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written by JRogers April 29, 2005 - 3:12 PM PDT
3 out of 5 members found this review helpful
This is a great film, with a storyline that can leave you contemplating for days and days. Unfortunately, you might also be thinking a lot about those really-real car crashes too. This film is about a screenwriter who wants to create a non-Hollywood screenplay based on a book about a man and his orchids, but the screenwriter's efforts are complicated by his own frustration, self-loathing and insecurities, and combined with pressure from his agents. He watches his life go by while trying to create a story that is authentic and doesn't sell-out - while his twin brother works successfully on a thriller that is so thrilling it will be impossible to film. All of his efforts, and the reflective storyline of the film itself, come to a head - and he succumbs to selling out. The film takes up every aspect that the writer has said he didn't want in his story, and the film "about flowers" gets a Hollywood ending. Everyone who watches this film will get something different out of it, as there is a great deal of ideas and imagery that gives it an organic and mutable storyline. It might go without saying, but Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper are brilliant and perfectly cast.

I get it and I still don't like it...
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written by cramberry February 6, 2005 - 1:55 PM PST
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
Adaptation is an eccentric, neurotic movie that should have been great, and while absolutely worth watching, fails to satisfy the appetite it whets. It's got an ambitious, thought-provoking premise, solid writing and fantastic performances. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper are marvelous, playing their complex and likeable characters with real respect. Nicolas Cage does a virtuoso job of acting opposite himself and fully realizes each of the twin Kaufman brothers as a distinct individual, helped in no small part, I'm sure, by the skill with which these characters were written. The script is wonderfully weird, and in keeping with screenwriting-guru character McKee's tenth principle of screenwriting, respectful of the audience's capacity to unpack a complicated narrative. Unfortunately, the twists and turns Kaufman introduces obfuscate the lack of a real center, and this fact is not changed or ameliorated by the fact that Kaufman and his characters acknowledge it.

Calling attention to a thing's weaknesses doesn't make those qualities go away; saying something is uninteresting doesn't change that fact. The self-reflexive, pre-emptive strikes Kaufman makes against himself, comprising the bulk of the first two thirds of the film, are initially pretty funny but eventually feel self-indulgent, repetitive and even tedious. Kaufman's self-loathing is so intense that it's tremendously difficult to sympathize with his character, despite the rich potential to identify with him, and since this poisonous self-view is the frame through which we watch the rest of the film, the viewer's whole experience is tinged with subtle ugliness. I expect that this is intentional, and while I certainly get it, I really didn't like it.

Abrupt plot turns and odd narrative shifts form the framework upon which the characters and broader ideas are draped, and are ultimately not so much clever as precocious, predictable and unsurprising. The only real surprises come in the form of incidental graphic violence when, near the end of the film, the story veers off into the land of Hollywood cliche, resulting from Donald and McKee's influence on Charlie. This is supposed to be ironic - the film follows the advice of the veteran screenwriter to give the audience a spectacular ending - but once you get it (hey look, irony!) it persists in lumbering on clumsily and laboriously to a misanthropic, violent and hollow ending. As Mike D has famously remarked about the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill, "It's like when you make a parody and then you become the parody."

I'm not saying the film's not smart, and I'm certainly not suggesting that Kaufman's not a good writer. It's just that the question of what is "real" and what is fiction, and the analysis of texts, meta-texts and subtexts are part of an incredibly fascinating territory that has been explored with far greater success by many artists, including Kaufman himself, and when an artist is as good as he is, one is inclined to hold the work up to closer scrutiny. The real irony is that because Kaufman invites us to participate in his construction, we feel it more acutely when it collapses.

Cage, Streep, and Cooper... and the Oscar goes to....
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written by Merty March 22, 2004 - 5:55 PM PST
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Chris Cooper. He is absolutely wonderful in this movie -- very believable. Some of his lines are absolutely memorable -- when he talks about pursuing a goal with single minded passion or his ability to refocus his energy and his life. Highly recommended.

Meta-musings on Adaptation
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written by Cinenaut September 3, 2003 - 9:54 AM PDT
3 out of 5 members found this review helpful
I thoroughly enjoyed Adaptation. Charlie Kaufman was totally messing with the audience's collective head. Is this a good thing in a movie? It depends on your tastes, I suppose. Look for the "Easter egg" on the DVD that has a phone number so you can leave a message on Charlie Kaufman's phone.

In response to Alice's critcism of Adapation, I have some comments.

***WARNING: SPOILER***
You might not want to read the following if you haven't seen the movie. What if the wild plot developments towards the end of Adaptation are the result of Donald's rewrite of Charlie's script? The things that start happening are exactly the kind of plot devices that Donald would want to put in a movie. The movie you are watching has been written by one of the characters in the movie, but it doesn't necessarily reflect what "actually" happened. Make sense? My head hurts now.

Smart, but ultimately disappointing
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written by Alice September 2, 2003 - 7:27 PM PDT
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
I've been trying to pin down exactly what it is that disappointed me about this film -- because it's smart, and cleverly self-conscious, and Cage, Cooper & Streep all put in great performances. And I have finally, ironically, come up with exactly the same reasons that the film's Charlie Kaufman character does in his constant ruminations over the script: there's nowhere for the film to go -- and the place Kaufman ends up taking us is so far beyond the pale that it just doesn't work.

The film keeps teasing us with a really great story: Susan Orlean, her book, and her relationship with the orchid thief. It's like the real Charlie Kaufman didn't realize that Cooper & Streep would do such a great job -- or couldn't envision them well enough to actually make their story *happen*. In any event, for those of you who haven't seen this film, I don't want to ruin it -- and it's definitely worth seeing -- so suffice to say that Kaufman's method for "wowing them in the last act" is over the top, sappy, and ultimately disappointing.

An A-MAZING film!
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written by larbeck May 20, 2003 - 1:46 PM PDT
7 out of 9 members found this review helpful
This is a smart, unusual, and amazing film! Finally, Meryl Streep is back with a performance that rocks the house. And Cage is great as the true life author and his spilt personality.

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(Average 7.19)
748 Votes
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