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Overall Rating
4.39

Awesome64.57%
Worth A Look: 21.26%
Just Average: 6.3%
Pretty Crappy: 4.72%
Sucks: 3.15%

7 reviews, 85 user ratings


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Adaptation
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by MP Bartley

"A Dizzying trip through Charlie Kaufman's mind. Perhaps too dizzying."
4 stars

God bless originality and God bless Charlie Kaufman. Just when you think you're going to drown in a sea of bipoics, re-makes, updates, pointless teen comedies and horrors, would be epics and timid stage adaptions, along comes not one but two Kaufman scripts to breath fresh hope into a jaded cinema lover. 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' is the other and another review for a different time. 'Adaption' is the other, and further evidence that Kaufman is straying damn close to genius. The fact that 'Adaption' is so damn good, but just misses out on a full five star review is more proof that Kaufman has so much more to delight us with that we should canonise him now.

'Adaption' is, well, an adaption. Or at least the process of adaption. Kaufman (Nicholas Cage) is trying to adapt Suzanne Orleans (Meryl Streep) book 'The Orchid Thief' into a screenplay, but is having a nightmare doing.

He's having panic attacks, sweating constantly, looking at his podgy stomach and receding hairline in pure self-loathing, not sleeping and spending the nights by generally whacking off. To make matters worse, his twin brother Donald is also attempting to write a screenplay about a serial killer and is gleefully using every cliche he can think off, and having the time of his life doing it.

Meanwhile we flash back three years to see Orleans interview the subject of her book, John Laroche (Chris Cooper) and lose herself in his world of swamps and orchids.

Typically for Kaufman and director it's a loopy, anarchic but beautifully insane choice of topic. True, writers block is a well covered topic but never like this. We don't focus on the early hours of the morning typing sessions, it's about bunking off and getting distracted by muffins. It's about cliches and over-used concepts. It takes an immense lack of ego for Kaufman to portray himself the way he does here. He's alternately panicky, pathetic, a human stomach ulcer just waiting to erupt.
And Cage is simply magnificent. Welcome back Nic, more of these choices and less of the 'Gone In 60 Seconds', and we'll be more happy to reinstate your 'best actor of his generation' label.

He's a hoot as Charlie perfectly capturing the nuances of a frustated writer and even more importantly, the simple impotence of a human being who can't work or even communicate with a girl he's desperately in love with. It's a performance with heart as well as hilarity. He also avoids the cliched route of making his twin brother a simple polar opposite. There's as much character in Donald as there is in Charlie. Perky as a puppy dog, full of boundless energy he clearly adores and respects his brother, yet is totally unaware of the effect his more successful attempts at writing are having on him.

Cage is faultless at balancing the two parts, making you forget you're watching the same character twice, but making you believe you're simply watching two brothers. The interplay between them is frequently bust a gut funny, particularly when Donald is explaining his ghastly story "It's machines against horses!". But then there's also some soul baring between them leading to one of the most genuinely honest and emotional conversations I've seen between two characters in a long time.

It would be hard to match up to Cage here but Cooper just about manages it. With greasy pony-tail and teeth like tombstones, he also gives a performance to match the appearance. He makes Laroche a captivating presence, and not just a hill-billy cliche, giving him real emotion and a backstory that rings true (look out for the scene where he explains losing his teeth), and avoiding the potential pitfall of making him an oddity to just look at and not feel for.

If one character falls by the wayside, it's Streep. Check my 'The Hours' review for how irritating and lazy she can be, but at least here she tries. It's just that next to Cage and Cooper there's barely any room to make an impact. Having said that, a scene in her hotel room where she finally achieves happiness is one of the sweetest scenes in the movie.

Ron Livingston as Kaufman's Agent makes an inspired appearance, as do Brian Cox as writing expert Robert McKee, John Cusack, John Malkovich and Katherine Keener on the set of 'Being John Malkovich'. It's testament to Kaufman that this doesn't come as a colossal folly, and praise to Jonze for keeping everything while far from normal, accessible, to the audience.

It would be easy for a screenplay about writing a screenplay to fall back on jokes that would appeal solely to writers but Kaufman casts his eye wide and delivers a script that at times is pure gold, and works for anyone who's had to suffer fools or just felt lost in their work or life. For anyone who's had to put up with an irrittating brother through gritted teeth or simply been unable to express their feelings. And sometimes it just settles for a good old wanking joke.

But it falls short of 'Being John Malkovich' genius. For the climax it feels like Kaufman and Jonze let their grip falter and the subtlety now becomes obvious. Of course it's arguable that this is what they intended, but occasionally clever can be a bit too clever-clever for it's own good. It hardly ruins the film, but the climax is likely to leave some people lost, cheated or both.

It's a climax that for once, falls into depending on peoples knowledge of screenplays and what Charlie has been trying to avoid all along. As a climax it's a let-down and as a final joke it's punchline feels flat.

But despite this wobble, 'Adaption' is a hugely entertaining, thoughtful and just damn funny. The actors show the rabble in 'Chicago' for example just what an ensemble piece can be, with Cage and Cooper shining in particular. If this is Kaufman not getting it quite right, just imagine what he'll do when he does. The final blip is forgiveable because I'd take one Charlie Kaufman over a hundred Akiva Goldsman's. And you should too.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6436&reviewer=293
originally posted: 03/18/03 09:20:57
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User Comments

12/09/15 Anne "if they make fun of me it's their problem" 4 stars
2/04/12 GC WOW Hollywood does still have some original ideas...great movie! 4 stars
10/31/11 Nathan Adam Johnson Loved it. Very touching and funny. Great pacing & performances. 5 stars
6/08/11 Simon Admirable nosedive into 'originality' & (un)mutual perspective held back by pretentiousness 4 stars
11/30/10 Barbara Leaf Chris Cooper is one of the best actors around. He had his teeth pulled for this film. 4 stars
1/14/10 Samantha P great dialog and great acting! 5 stars
12/13/09 Anonymous I liked this. It was incredibly original. 4 stars
12/05/08 K. Sear Entertaining, but is a little too on the nose. 4 stars
5/14/08 PAUL SHORTT DIABOLIQUAL AND CERTAINLY VERY RESISTABLE 1 stars
4/14/08 David Wow, clearly some ppl DONT understand this movie! 2 many weakminded ppl. Great Job Kaufman! 5 stars
3/19/08 gjhghj poop is brown 3 stars
11/12/07 Mads Frandsen WHAT A MOVIE! 5 stars
6/05/07 fools♫gold O yes, you (no, not you) will forget thatthing that embarrasesyoutoday. Like this sentence. 5 stars
3/12/07 mb Stopped watching after 25 min 2 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands You have to be a writer to fully understand what Kaufman is saying, but anyone can enjoy it 5 stars
10/04/05 Jesse Taylor One of the best movies ever made. Charlie Kaufman is a genius! 5 stars
9/18/05 Indrid Cold Interesting how the profound message of so many "smart" movies is that love is the answer. 4 stars
9/01/05 Naka Strange and beautiful on every level. Kaufman is a genius. 5 stars
8/25/05 sbpat21 genius... 5 stars
8/05/05 Zack Another great Charlie Kaufman film! 5 stars
7/11/05 R.W. Welch Contrary to prevailing opinion, originality is not totally dead. See this pic. 4 stars
4/21/05 chris. important for film, important for idiots 5 stars
11/18/04 Brazilian John Great film. Original, true and competent 5 stars
11/16/04 My Two Cents No reviews I correctly identified the device of the twin brother 5 stars
10/20/04 Pete Richardson Wonderful story that dazzles the heart and the brain 5 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands As a screenwriter, I can relate to EVERY SINGLE THING that happens to Charlie Kaufman in it 5 stars
9/22/04 Ron Peetoom Hard to imagine but...:even better than ´´Being John Malkovich´´ 5 stars
9/09/04 sebastian blume most original script in years 5 stars
8/15/04 Peter James A love it or hate it film...about a story within a story within a story...amazing 5 stars
8/01/04 Charles Meyerson Thought-provoking, funny and brilliantly acted 5 stars
4/11/04 Wildcarde1 i laughed , i cried...naw i just was bored 2 stars
2/02/04 Jack Bourbon About as funny as I've ever seen. Most unpredictable film ever. 5 stars
1/29/04 yeahboy DoN ur watching too much horror movies lately dat uve 4gotten hw 2 use ur brain 5 stars
1/24/04 Bomolub Perversely twisted and bizarre; blurs movie/reality boundaries wonderfully. 5 stars
1/09/04 Charles Tatum Oh God, I am Charlie Kaufman! 5 stars
12/11/03 Aaron A great film more people need to see. It's a shame movies like Bad Boys 2 make more money. 5 stars
11/22/03 A Williams a very inventive intelligent film 4 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee A boring story. I almost fell asleep until the crazy, crazy ending with the psychos. 2 stars
10/11/03 Dark Barøn Speachless. 5 stars
10/11/03 Jinnvisible (Art-twin+sellout-twin)%(Art-film+sellout-ending)=( Art - credibillity) 2over/rated+$$$£££ 3 stars
10/06/03 picky critic Overrated. One of those what-does-it-mean-to-be-human movies,but not terribly insightful. 3 stars
10/01/03 Harris You are what you love, not what loves you. 5 stars
8/13/03 Phil M. Aficionado A wild and daring ride that bends the mind (just enough); superb acting too. 5 stars
8/01/03 Rusell and Donald Liston Great film. The second best of 2002 besides The Pianist. Donald did not understand it. 5 stars
6/27/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng I fucking love this movie. Spike Jonze is a veteran. Nicolas Cage is awesome. 4 stars
6/24/03 Large Farve My wife chose Just Married over this... My house is shamed... 5 stars
6/23/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik brilliant writing 5 stars
6/17/03 Andrew Callaway Original... intelluctual... Donald is fictional. 4 stars
6/15/03 Flick Chick wonderfully bizarre 5 stars
6/10/03 George Jung If anything else, at least it's original. 4 stars
6/09/03 Jack Bourbon Why does Charlie, and not Donald, get all of the credit for this film? 5 stars
6/05/03 Taylor Fladgate Great actors at their best...what a cast! 4 stars
6/05/03 Erik Van Sant Cage finally makes a good movie! Kaufman and Jonze are a perfect team. 5 stars
5/26/03 mipchunk most definitely the best movie of the year! 5 stars
5/24/03 Jack Sommersby Forced, shallow black comedy piles on the sensationalism and omits the wit. 1 stars
5/20/03 Mickey With A C tedious to watch: black comedy happens suddenly 4 stars
4/16/03 skye chapman BEST MOVIE of the year 5 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon When a movie makes you laugh your ass off simply b/c it shows a gun, it's got to be great. 5 stars
3/29/03 Roy Smith Bizarre but brilliant. 4 stars
3/22/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III GENIUS! 5 stars
3/21/03 Donald Kaufman WORSHIP ME. 5 stars
3/19/03 Shadaan Felfeli i didn't sit through it ! 3 stars
3/18/03 bob mckenzie a vain attempt by kaufman to usurp BJM success 3 stars
3/05/03 me you arse Jesus anyone who didn't like this movie doesn't have a soul 5 stars
3/04/03 Eschenennock Manville Contorted story-within-story; how much is fact and how much is fiction is anyone's guess. 4 stars
2/13/03 Andrew Carden Good Screenplay, but Weak and Contrived Performances. 3 stars
2/02/03 Kyle Amazing. 5 stars
2/02/03 Titus Very artistic, fascinating in many ways, but also a bit unfufilling and depressing. 4 stars
1/27/03 John Bale Remarkable stream of conciousness that expands the art of Cinema. Cage's top performance. 5 stars
1/21/03 Jen Above average film/Wonderful Cast/Being John Malkovich was better/Adapation was too 8 1/2 4 stars
1/20/03 Sandy G. Only the last 20 minutes were entertaining. 2 stars
1/19/03 Josh One of the best films of 2002. 5 stars
1/18/03 Suzz Imaginative aspects to it but also dull, boring and plodding. Audience was laughless. 2 stars
1/16/03 Angolmois It has moments of great poignancy and some (purposefully) ludicrous crap. Acting is superb. 5 stars
1/14/03 Mark Spivey One of the best movies I've ever seen...the most stirring themes one can imagine 5 stars
1/13/03 Lakeside ecrivain Actors true to complex script. Great industry satire! Haveing fun@audience could backfire 4 stars
1/09/03 Sean HM Must see again...pee your pants funny 5 stars
1/06/03 Caiphn Finally Nicholas Cage proves that he can actually act. 4 stars
1/02/03 Monday Morning What a letdown. 3 stars
12/22/02 James VG Great ride. Complex, but w/o having to ask 'What?'. Interestingly woven timelines/dreams. 4 stars
12/19/02 Wayne Give me a fucking break. What a shit film! 1 stars
12/17/02 steven seagal i'd rather punch my own head in than watch this shit. 1 stars
12/16/02 Reid Blackman An emotionally insightful and sharply intelligent film. 5 stars
12/15/02 Steven J Pretentious failure that shoots itself in the foot by the end. Too artsy for its own good! 2 stars
12/09/02 John Failed satire on Hollywood, endevours to prove it's point by becoming what it parodies. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Dec-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Apr-2003


Directed by
  Spike Jonze

Written by
  Charlie Kaufman

Cast
  Nicolas Cage
  Meryl Streep
  Chris Cooper
  Brian Cox
  John Cusack
  Judy Greer



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