F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 13, 2010)

13 08 2010

Much like Christopher Nolan, whose brains have been the recipient of much praise this summer, Charlie Kaufman knows how to write some intelligent movies.  His third film, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” was a wildly engaging mystery and won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  I think one thing Kaufman has over Nolan is an ability to keep us spellbound while we are perplexed, not scratching our heads.

But before he was Academy Award winner Charlie Kaufman, he wrote a movie called “Adaptation,” which may just be the best movie about writing I’ve ever seen.  It’s been pushed down the calendar to run in the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” column all summer, but that doesn’t mean it is worse than any of the movies I’ve featured for the past three months.  This is easily the brainiest, most complex movie of the bunch.  And don’t think that it isn’t funny because it’s brainy; it’s brilliantly hilarious.

The movie, directed by Spike Jonze, tells the tale of Charlie Kaufman (played here by Nicolas Cage) as he struggles with writers block after “Being John Malkovich.”  His task is to adapt “The Orchid Thief,” a non-fictional book by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) about orchid poachers in Florida.  There’s just always some element he can’t get quite right, and it causes him anguish so painful we can feel it on the other side of the screen.

Add into the mix an equally neurotic twin brother Donald (also played by Cage) who’s obsessed with writing a script for the next blockbuster.  He has moved into Charlie’s home to mooch off him while also constantly asking advice on how to improve his screenplay.  Charlie constantly belittles his brother, refusing to acknowledge that he could actually have any talent.  Yet after seeing a screenwriting guru (Brian Cox), Charlie discovers that he needs his brother’s help to finish “The Orchid Thief.”  What results is the wildly self-referential “Adaptation,” a feast for the writer in all of us.

All three marquee names received Academy Award nominations for their performances – and deservedly so.   Chris Cooper, the so-called orchid thief of Orlean’s book, is a powerful force as a conman with uncanny intelligence.  Meryl Streep lets loose like seldom before (save perhaps her baked moment in “It’s Complicated), and it’s such fun to watch her do something a little different.  Cage doesn’t play two characters so much as he masters them, making them similar yet distinct.  He makes all the idiosyncrasies of the characters read well and milks them for some good humor.  Cage is so good, in fact, that you’ll surely scratch your head wondering why he’s strayed so far from these roles.



3 responses

13 08 2010

I love this movie. Seriously, Nic Cage must have a quota of bad films every decade before he lets himself do a good one. It must be some kind of religious self-torture method or something.

15 08 2010

This movie is close to being perfect. Nic Cage does a great job at playing both sides of Kaufman, and we know which one is the other. Great movie!

6 09 2012

This was on my Movie Bucket List, and I loved it 🙂 http://randomfilmbuff.com/2012/08/17/d-10/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: