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Adapation (2002) - Spike Jonze

Related: 2002 - film adaptation - American cinema - self-referentiality - Spike Jonze

Adaptation (2002) - Spike Jonze [Amazon.com]

A film about orchids, brought to you by the people who did Being John Malkovich. Also an exploration of the writing experience (and film adaptation), about fantasy, imagination and storytelling. Lots of deep thoughts on life itself, the movie medium, genre theory, zoomorphism and Darwinism. It features drugs (loved Meryl Streep getting high), a car crash (see Amores Perros), travels through time, twins and an extremely nice soundtrack by Carter Burwell with the Turtles' hit song Happy Together.


Adaptation is a 2002 film directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, although the fictional character Donald Kaufman is also given writing credit. It earned Chris Cooper an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), the screenwriter, is having problems adapting The Orchid Thief, a book by Susan Orlean, into a movie. Meanwhile, Charlie's twin brother, Donald (also Cage), wants to be a screenwriter as well. Where real life ends and adaptation begins is the question, as Orlean herself (Meryl Streep) and the orchid thief, John Laroche (Chris Cooper), are drawn into the story.

The film is self-referential, in that we see the creative process for the very movie that we are currently watching. At one point, Charlie is unable to think of a satisfactory ending for the script, and asks Donald how he would end it. At that moment, the style of the movie changes to Donald's style of scriptwriting, with intrigue, sex, car chases, and guns instead of abstraction and angst.

As the movie does contain large elements of self-reference, there is also speculation that Donald, the character who writes about split personalities and imaginary characters, might himself be nothing more than another aspect of Charlie's personality (as he is in real life).

The movie talks about the "Holy Grail", but all of the characters' quests in the story either fail or turn out to be futile:

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation_%28movie%29 [Apr 2005]

Meta-reference in cinema
The film Adaptation, in which the writer Charlie Kaufman writes himself into his own movie. The movie itself is a story about the writing of the movie. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-reference [Apr 2005]

Amazon review

Twisty brilliance from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, the team who created Being John Malkovich. Nicolas Cage returns to form with a funny, sad, and sneaky performance as Charlie Kaufman, a self-loathing screenwriter who has been hired to adapt Susan Orlean's book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. Frustrated and infatuated by Orlean's elegant but plotless book (which is largely a rumination on flowers), Kaufman begins to write a screenplay about himself trying to write a screenplay about The Orchid Thief, all the while hounded by his twin brother Donald (Cage again), who's cheerfully writing the kind of formulaic action movie that Kaufman finds repugnant. By its conclusion, Adaptation is the most artistically ambitious, most utterly cynical, and most uncategorizable movie ever to come out of Hollywood. Also starring Meryl Streep (as Susan Orlean), Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, and Brian Cox; superb performances throughout. --Bret Fetzer, Amazon.com

The soundtrack features the Turtles' 1967 hit "Happy Together"

Adaptation (2002) - Carter Burwell
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Adaptation reunites Carter Burwell (of Coen brothers renown) with director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman, the creative team behind 1999's Being John Malkovich, with equally noteworthy results. Although selections like "The Unexpressed Expressed" lean heavily on romantic strings, Burwell's harmonic progressions rarely culminate in obvious resolutions, mirroring the frustration of the film's protagonist, a screenwriter struggling to translate a nonfiction work into a workable screenplay. Less predictable timbres propel other cuts--"The Evolution of Evolution" marries kalimba and steel drums to Duane Eddy-style twang guitar and sly bass licks--and, as with Malkovich, the music of Adaptation often feels as though it were emanating from the murky ocean depths or the mechanized bowels of Big Ben. The disc is book-ended by Fatboy Slim's mercifully low-key "Adaptation" remix (essentially the vibraphone and harp vignette "The Writer and the Crazy White Man" plus a drum loop), and the Turtles' 1967 hit "Happy Together," a somewhat incongruous conclusion to Burwell's dark, riveting score. --Kurt B. Reighley for amazon.com

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