Adaptation, what can I say, restate the obvious: “Charlie Kaufman is a genius.”In his frustration to adapt to adapt Susan Orleans’s The Orchid Thief, Kaufman has made a masterpiece that satirizes the writing process, satisfyingly adapts the story he wanted to adapt in the first place into something a film that works in accord with the Hollywood ideals yet clashes with them at the same time, manages to blend fiction with reality and and always keep the viewer guessing about what’s going to happen next.
Adaptation tells so many stories at the same time its bewildering. But it doesn’t tell it like Nocturnal Animals did this year where we’ve got story A, B, and C, instead Kaufman decides to blend every story together, stringing along themes that are fit for every individual tale in the blend. It’s honestly something you just have to experience I can really put into words, as Kaufman and Jonze’s genius as a duo is beyond comprehension. Jonze is telling Kaufman’s tale about how the story we’re currently watching is being created while adapting The Orchid Thief and integrating Kaufman’s adaptation of The Orchid Thief into his very own fictionalized adaptation of the story. Its brilliant and alongside Barton Fink, its the most intelligent film about making movies there is. Its definitely the most clever and perspicacious film about adaptions there is, as it not only directly addresses the hardship of adapting a pre-existing material as the title suggests, but also takes on how people learn to adapt and struggle to adapt. In his moments of desperation struggling to adapt The Orchid Thief, Kaufman created this profound cinematic experience that goes against everything a film should be by utilizing tropes that make up what the most generic type of film is. Its pure genius and the fact that Kaufman was able to pull off this self-referential, paradoxical, hyper-aware, and playful epic is incredible.
With most of my reviews, I always seem to firstly talk about my feelings about the film and then delve into the actor’s work on screen, but like everything in Adaptation, its seems these things blend together. Its extremely odd as you’re watching it because you’ve got Chris Cooper as John Laroche pondering about who will play him in the adaptation of his story we’re currently watching. With Kaufman’s blending of reality and fiction, there’s a surrealist blur that occurs where real people are forced to engage with not only fictional characters, such as Charlie Kaufman’s fake twin brother played by Nicolas Cage, but also engage with fictionalized versions of real people which makes it hard to differentiate where a character begins and the real person started. Adaptation is one of those films where Nicolas Cage displays his full talent as both Charlie and Donald Kaufman. He is able to give so much individuality to each twin that you can tell them apart at all times and with each one being so different, it becomes extremely fun towards the third-act where it seems that Donald seems to take control of Charlie’s story and as he does Donald’s energy and feeling bleeds through the occurrences that happen towards the end. Besides Nic Cage professing his greatness by excelling in playing both of the twin screenwriters, which is Kaufman’s ironic way of confronting image of self, Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep also do a fantastic job in playing the fictionalized versions of Susan Orlean and John Laroche Kaufman has painted for them.
But I can’t direct all my praise towards Kaufman, as Spike Jonze’s direction of this wild script is done in an intellectually gratifying way. The way Jonze is able to layer every story upon each other in a way that doesn’t feel jarring in any way is astonishing. Jonze aptly gives each character enough time and space to fully develop and does some really unique stuff as playing the part of the director as if he were being directed by Kaufman’s mind at all times. Its wild I say, there’s no other way too really describe how and what Adaptation is. Surely its intelligent and meticulously crafted by geniuses, but the end product feels like a wild ride through all these different facets of emotion and storytelling that come together in stupendous fashion. The fact that Jonze is able to properly adapt Kaufman’s mad genius onto the screen is something we should admire on its own.
Adaptation is a masterpiece of cinema that deconstructs cinema and exposes its primary elements in a cleverly disarranged order that only Kaufman could’ve come up with. Everyone’s performances in this film are fantastic, especially Nicolas Cage’s portrayal of Donald and Charlie Kaufman and how that eventually plays into the structure of the plot itself. Jonze’s ability to adapt Kaufman’s crazily crafted script is something that leaves me speechless as he perfectly transcribes Kaufman’s very thoughts into Adaptation. The playfulness of Adaptation is also something to admire as it manages to present itself as a comedy, tragedy, and even a thriller during different parts of its story. Adaptation is fantastic film about the construction of film itself that destroys the rules of cinema based on the principles that make up cinema itself.