Thursday, May 17, 2012

Adaptation (2002) - Review

People like to bag on Nicholas Cage, mostly due to his inability to choose good scripts. He's zany, over-the-top, and often miscast as the straight man when he's so much better at being strange and quirky. And as luck would have it, this is a strange and quirky movie, so he fits right in.  Adaptation is full of oddball self-referential ideas but somehow it manages to feel completely normal.

For starters, Cage is perfect.  Playing a set of twins, Charlie Kaufman (the actual writer of the movie) and his fictional brother Donald, Cage gives two equally sympathetic and surprisingly moving performances.  Without him, the movie doesn't work, and his plot is by far the most entertaining.  Switching between a plot based off of a book and Kaufman trying to adapt the book into a screenplay (fictionalized accounts of a non-fiction book and the attempt to turn it into a screenplay all within the same movie; it's too meta to even think about), the narrative is all over the place but somehow never becomes confusing.

It's a brave movie to make, really, because it's incredibly difficult to accurately explain.  What's also interesting is that it doesn't exactly fall into any typical genres.  You could call it a comedy because it is very funny in its quirkiness; you could also call it a drama because it goes pretty deep into the character of Charlie Kaufman and there are a lot of great dramatic moments.  You could even call part of it an action-thriller.  What's great is that it balances all the elements and becomes something completely new, much like SUPER or Donnie Darko.

If there's one flaw, it's that it is a bit slow and disorienting to get into.  But those who remain patient will be rewarded with an entertaining and shockingly original take on screenwriting.  Luckily though, this movie remembers that the message of a film is only part of the story; you still need good characters and actors, and Charlie Kaufman (both the writer and protagonist) is certainly interesting, at the very least.

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