Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Director: Spike Jonze
Running Time: 115 mins
Adaptation. is an American film about a screenwriter who suffers extreme writer’s block as he struggles to adapt a novel into a movie.
There’s immense talent across the board in Adaptation, from director Spike Jonze to leads Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper and more, but this is very much the Charlie Kaufman show, effectively a portrayal of this film’s own screenwriter’s path to eventually writing this film.
Stay with me, because Adaptation is a brilliantly intricate and convoluted affair, as we follow the story of Kaufman as he attempts to adapt a book to film in an innovative way, but soon finds himself struggling to get anything down on the page as his approach to writing the story for the screen hits a brick wall.
As his character says about the book he’s adapting, nothing much happens in the film’s first two acts, as it focuses on the eternal cycle of a self-conscious and self-loathing screenwriter beating himself up about beating himself up about not being able to get his screenplay finished.
Nicolas Cage gives a great performance in the lead role (as well as in the part of Kaufman’s fictional twin brother Donald), with a nice dose of charisma when it’s need, but mostly an effectively neurotic air about him that makes Kaufman’s endless struggles all the more of rabbit hole to fall into.
And a rabbit hole is exactly what Adaptation is, a film that’s an adaptation of itself adapting its own story about an adaptation of a book. If you’ve ever seen other films written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, I’m Thinking Of Ending Things etc.), you’ll know that that kind of nonsense is what makes Adaptation so great.
A pitch-perfect portrait of the plight of writer’s block, and equally an interesting adaptation of the original story of the novel being adapted in its own right, Adaptation is a fantastically mind-bending affair, yet never an inaccessible or unintelligible watch, cleverly keeping to Hollywood genre conventions as it simultaneously tries to rip them apart.
It’s a very clever film that never feels pretentious or aloof, which again is a major theme of the story here. In effect, this is kind of like that never-ending staircase drawing by Escher, or the Ouroboros snake that eats its own tail, which is again mentioned in the movie.
It seems simple enough to grasp on the outside, but there’s a lot more to Adaptation that’s difficult to put into clear words without going around and around in a circle. But it’s that complexity and ingenuity which makes it so memorable and such a great watch throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving Adaptation an 8.0 overall.