Movie of the Day: Adaptation
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What It Is: Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) struggles to follow up his hit indie film Being John Malkovich by adapting an uncinematic book about flowers. The film intercuts the story of “New Yorker” writer Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) chronicling the life of Florida orchid poacher John Laroche (Chris Cooper) with Kaufman’s own Hollywood induced neuroses, romantic misadventures, and troubled relationship to his twin brother Donald (also Nic Cage). More than just film industry satire, Adaptation is an innovative meta-comedy that explores the complex nature of truth, storytelling, and flowers.
Why It’s Unique: If it wasn’t obvious from the description, Adaption is perhaps the most intelligent, challenging comedy of the 21st century. The film loops interweaving and intersecting narratives with dazzling visual detours into biology and horticulture, self-consciously breaking all the rules of screenwriting by following them. Meryl Streep’s generational talent is well-documented, but actors like Ethan Hawke have described Nicolas Cage as the most revolutionary actor of our time. This movie shows why, giving him scenes with not only Streep but also Tilda Swinton and, more importantly, himself.
Who Made It: Adaptation was the second and final collaboration between director Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman. Both Jonze and Kaufman went on to win Oscars for writing other projects, Her and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, respectively. More recently Jonze has launched a cable network and directed music videos and commercials that you’ve likely seen online or on TV, while Kaufman co-directed the features Synecdoche, New York and Anomalisa in 2015. In a better world, we would get features and/or TV series from these unique creative visionaries every few years.
What People Who Liked It Said In 2002:
What Someone Who Didn’t Like It Said in 2002: Adaptation is almost universally beloved. Almost. https://www.riverfronttimes.com/stlouis/adapt-this/Content?oid=2467088
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