Re: Movie Club - Currently: Adaptation
Here are my thoughts on Adaptation but be warned: there are spoilers.
THE COMIC BOARD FILM CLUB #1: ADAPTATION (SPIKE JONZE, 2002)
(2002) is a film directed by Spike Jonze about a screenwriter and his attempt to adapt a book into a screenplay. The screenwriter is Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage), critically acclaimed screenwriter of Jonze’s previous film Being John Malkovich
is the result of the real life Kaufman being hired to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief
. Just like his fictional counterpart, Kaufman had trouble in adapting the book and ended up writing a screenplay about his trouble to adapt the book. And so the film Adaptation
The first two halves of the film are fairly accurate representations of what really happened apart from the character of Donald Kaufman. In the film, Donald Kaufman is Charlie’s twin brother (also played by Nicolas Cage). Donald Kaufman does not exist in the real world. In the film, Donald has moved in with Charlie and is also trying to write his own screenplay, with a bit more success than his brother. Donald Kaufman is the key to the film.
The actual screenplay for Adaptation
was credited as being written by both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, despite the latter being a fictional character. Both of them were awarded the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. However, Donald deserves the award just as much as Charlie, as in a way, he basically writes the third part of the film.
In desperation, Charlie turns to Donald to ask for his help in writing his screenplay. Donald, having recently finished a very popular screenplay himself, motivates Charlie to follow the author of the book, Susan Orlean (played by Meryl Streep). Susan is going to Miami to visit the subject of her book, John Laroche (played by Chris Cooper) and Charlie and Donald hope to get to the bottom of their relationship in attempt to finally piece together the screenplay.
The third part of the film becomes something that would appear in a movie written by Donald Kaufman and not Charlie; characters being pursued by a gunman through a dark swamp filled with alligators. It ends with Donald being shot accidentally by Laroche and eventually dying, leaving Charlie in great despair… but finally giving him the motivation to finish his screenplay.
is less an adaptation of The Orchid Thief
and more a film about writing itself. As an aspiring screenwriter, I recognised and understood Charlie Kaufman’s struggles to even start the first page. I think this is why I like this film so much; it shows that the harder you struggle, the greater the finished product will be. If I could write a film that was anything like Adaptation
, I would be extremely proud.
If you liked Adaptation
, I would recommend watching any film by Spike Jonze or Charlie Kaufman, especially Synecdoche, New York
(2008), the first film Kaufman directed himself. It is quite similar to Adaptation
, with a theatre director attempting to create a show about himself… but like Adaptation
, it becomes something much more.