Adaptation. (2002)

It’s easy for directors to spoof themselves and their own movies, and it could easily come off as self-indulgent, but director Spike Johnze somehow makes it seem refreshing and truly bold. I was intrigued from the beginning as Jonze dares to be cliché and predictable from beginning to end. Charlie Kaufman is an odd character. He’s insecure, self-loathing, balding, and never knows the right thing to say to people despite the fact that many people actually like him but he manages to instantly repel them with his knack for talking too much and saying the wrong or inappropriate thing as he does with an attractive friendly waitress (Judy Greer) at a restaurant. Charlie is constantly running his head with thoughts of insecurity despite the fact that he’s thought of as a genius in Hollywood.

Nicolas Cage plays two characters; Donald Kaufman as well, who is the exact twin of Charlie except more confident, easy-going, and friendlier. What Cage gives a stellar performance with two characters who look exactly alike but somehow are easily noticeable as separate people. Nicolas Cage is so skilled performing as these two characters its almost scary. The characters Donald and Charlie are twin brothers but somehow they represent opposite people; as where Charlie is insecure, uneasy, and awkward, Donald is somehow symbolic as Charlie’s exact opposite, an entity he wishes he could be. Donald is easy going, friendly, and a good people person and is also Charlie’s exact creative opposite.

Where Donald is cliché, predictable, and artificial when it comes to movie ideas including one cookie cutter murder mystery, Charlie strives to be different and off-beat in his attempts as a screenwriter. There are many great scenes in which Jonze points out many clichés in the film genre and frowns upon phrases like “pitch a script”. They tend to interact throughout the film presenting vastly different personalities and personas Cage handles with much flair, Meryl Streep gives a great performance is yet another symbol in the story who plays novelist Susan Orlean who is disgusted with Laroche at first but gains a fascination with John Laroche a botanist obsessed with Wild Orchids. Orlean gains an instant fascination with Laroche who manages to become a paradox within her character as well. Laroche played by Chris Cooper is great as the eccentric Laroche, symbolizing Orleans lack of passion in life.

She leads a basically mundane life with her husband as a reporter for the “New Yorker”, then Laroche instantly reacts to Orlean’s character who he sees as the missing element to his life, the one person who understands his passion for life. Every element in the story becomes a character from the waitress in the restaurant who represents Kaufman’s lack of confidence, right down to the book and screenplay which become symbols of Charlie’s goals in life almost impossible to reach, an obstacle he must conquer to get to the next pinnacle of success in his life; the orchids become symbolic of women to Charlie; odd and fascinating specimen’s he’s only beginning to understand but may in fact never will. Jonze takes clever jabs at himself with many story elements. The film is full of voice-overs from Charlie and Susan despite the fact that a screenplay teacher (played by the always versatile but underrated Brian Cox) says during the film that voice-over’s are for terrible writers who can’t tell a story.

Its little tidbits of self-aware satirical elements that Jonze bombard the screen with creating a truly wry product that becomes an entity onto itself, with a murder mystery motif which is something the character Charlie is strictly striving against. By the last minutes of the film he’s written himself into a screenplay about someone else which causes the audience to wonder, is the movie a fabrication of the writer, or is the writer a fabrication of the movie? That said, events seem to jump back and forth between characters and their situations and it never truly states which is which except for a statement below stating “Three years Later..” or “Two years earlier…”. The film also has intentions and twists in stories that most crowds probably won’t understand unless it’s watched more than once. This is a truly fascinating peek into the minds of creative writers and in the end becomes its own product which the character Charlie despises. Spike Jonze creates an original, but truly innovative piece of film.