Ecce Homo Ergo Homo
Film review by: Witney Seibold


            “Adaptation,” the new film from “Being John Malkovich” creators Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, is a film of a screenplay which involves the writer of that very screenplay trying to adapt a book into a movie which is supposed to be the screenplay he’s writing, but isn’t.
            Clear as mud. Let me expound. Writer Charlie Kaufman was asked to adapt Susan Orlean’s novel, The Orchid Thief, into a film. He couldn’t do it; writer’s block. He tried different approaches, tried meeting with the author, and even ashamedly attended a screenwriting seminar. Nothing doing. He finally began to write his experience of adapting the novel, and write a screenplay with himself as the lead character, with Orlean interviewing the subject of her novel as a subplot. This is “Adaptation.” Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, as well as his not-as-brilliant but far more suave twin brother Donald. Meryl Streep plays Orlean, and Chris Cooper plays the orchid thief, John Laroche.
            This is all, quite frankly, a brilliant idea. We’ve had about-Hollywood films before that played with our self-cognizance (“The Player,” et al), but this film has smashed the fourth wall to rubble before we realize one had been built. We live inside the neurotic rambling and self-indulgent fantasies of Charlie. We occupy many layers of reality at once. We also play with the ideas of creating, of playing within the Hollywood system, and of the nature of self-awareness.
            This is all well and good… up to a point. The ending comes crashing dissonantly into this odd world, and resolves it in the most inappropriate way. During the course of the film, Charlie asks his more convention-minded (real?) brother to help him, and the film then satirically boils into formula. Only it’s not witty or fun or satirical. It’s plain formula. And not even good formula. It lost its way, and left me confused. Were we supposed to think that was satire of Hollywood, that ending? Was it genuine? Was it a snicker at itself? The first two-third are wonderful and shouldn’t be missed. The ending, was, well, too adapted to Hollywood.

Published in: on May 4, 2009 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

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