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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.26%
Average: 6.3%
Pretty Bad: 4.72%
Total Crap: 3.15%

7 reviews, 85 user ratings

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by Chris Parry

"If originality be the fuel of thought, write on, Charlie Kaufman."
5 stars

Adaptation is a tough flick to review. Kangaroo Jack - easy. Maid In Manhattan - a cinch. Adaptation - not so much. Charlie Kaufman's follow-up to Being John Malkovich and Human Nature is every bit as odd, original, non-commercial and thought-provoking as his earlier works, with the added twist of having brought himself and an imaginary twin brother in as new characters in the adaptation of someone else's book. And trust me, if you thought that sentence was tough to read, imagine how tough it was to write.

Charlie Kaufman (the character) has a problem. Well, he has many problems. In fact, he's pretty fucked up. He totally reminds me of my ex-business partner, a fool so dripping in stress and self-loathing that he couldn't sit for ten seconds without itching at a patch of psoriasis, obsessing over his rapidly thinning hair and thickening waistline, and telling anyone who listen that he's a talentless boob. And since he still owes me a few grand, I don't mind telling you that he was right about that 'talentless' bit.

Charlie Kaufman on the other hand is far from talentless. When he's writing what he likes, he's as witty and new and twisted as anyone can be. But when the job in front of him is to adapt a novel that is the polar opposite of his writing style, problems ensue. How do you take a long, sprawling story about feelings where nobody really has any change or threat or adventure and turn it into a feature film people will pay to see?

The problems with Adaptation, and they're admittedly only small problems, are that the troubles Kaufman feels on the screen are also felt in reality. When he confesses as the Kaufman character that putting himself into the story is self indulgent, as the Kaufman screenwriter... he's right. When he groans about his lack of a big ending, I'm down with that - the ending is a letdown.

But to say those are reasons to take away from this film would be to completely neglect how funny, enjoyable, thought provoking and real this film plays out. Kaufman's desperation as a writer is the most realistic depiction of the writer's world since, oh, I dunno, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?

As Kaufman (and his brother), Nic Cage is flawless. Absolutely flawless. I've seldom been anything more than belligerent and insulting towards Cage over the last three or four years as he loped from awful role to terrible performance, trying to seemingly relaunch himself as an action hero. I've accused and abused this actor for selling his soul in such on-screen sewage as 8MM, Face|Off, Con-air, Gone in Sixty Seconds and The Family Man, but it's nice to know that irrespective of his ills against the movie-going public, he DOES possess acting talent. An abundance of it.

As does Meryl Streep. If you'd have told me three years ago that music video director Spike Jonze and Oscar-winning acting icon Meryl Streep would one day collaborate on a project, I think I'd have called you a dirty rotten liar. I still may, so watch yourself. But Streep's performance here as the author of the book that Kaufman is adapting is nothing short of exhilarating. Streep all but dropped off the radar for a few years after a rich vein in the mid-90's, but whether she's come back because the money is too good to pass up or because the standard of projects available has been steadily improving, Meryl couldn't be more welcome.

Opposite her for the majority of the film is Chris Cooper, who has fast become the character actor of choice for many a director since he lit up the screen so unexpectedly in American Beauty. There's no doubt Cooper has talent, but he's so convincing as a teeth-deprived swamp hick that you quickly forget who you're looking at. It's not that he's 'made up' to look like someone else, he just is someone else. He's morphed. There's no trace remaining of Chris Cooper; he now answers to the name Mr Laroche.

And it goes on - Maggie Gyllenhaal (Those Gyllenhaal's are talented kids I'll tell ya) is a breath of fresh air, Ron Livingston is unforgettable in a small role as Kaufman's agent ("I'd fuck THAT up the ass... oh wait, I already did."), and cameos by John Cusack, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich are so perfectly timed and used and tempered that you almost wish the director had betrayed his story and given them more screen time. That he resisted the urge to give Cusack a line is testimony to the artistic integrity of all involved. How many times have we seen celebrity cameos overused to the point where they take away from the story? Let's just say there are no John Travolta/Thin Red Line moments in this film.

Much like as happened to Punch Drunk Love, many audiences will find reason to be disappointed with this film, or at the very least confused. They won't get why there's no big finish, they won't follow the nuances of the script and they won't know why the critics call it brilliant. That's the trade-off when you're supremely original - people don't know how to take you. I'm sure Charlie Kaufman by now has learned to deal with that and just enjoy the fact that he's created something great.

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originally posted: 02/11/03 15:57:22
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User Comments

12/10/15 Anne "if they make fun of me it's their problem" 4 stars
2/04/12 GC WOW Hollywood does still have some original ideas...great movie! 4 stars
11/01/11 Nathan Adam Johnson Loved it. Very touching and funny. Great pacing & performances. 5 stars
6/08/11 Simon Admirable nosedive into 'originality' & (un)mutual perspective held back by pretentiousness 4 stars
12/01/10 Barbara Leaf Chris Cooper is one of the best actors around. He had his teeth pulled for this film. 4 stars
1/14/10 Samantha P great dialog and great acting! 5 stars
12/14/09 Anonymous I liked this. It was incredibly original. 4 stars
12/05/08 K. Sear Entertaining, but is a little too on the nose. 4 stars
4/14/08 David Wow, clearly some ppl DONT understand this movie! 2 many weakminded ppl. Great Job Kaufman! 5 stars
3/20/08 gjhghj poop is brown 3 stars
11/13/07 Mads Frandsen WHAT A MOVIE! 5 stars
6/06/07 fools♫gold O yes, you (no, not you) will forget thatthing that embarrasesyoutoday. Like this sentence. 5 stars
3/12/07 mb Stopped watching after 25 min 2 stars
10/11/05 Agent Sands You have to be a writer to fully understand what Kaufman is saying, but anyone can enjoy it 5 stars
10/05/05 Jesse Taylor One of the best movies ever made. Charlie Kaufman is a genius! 5 stars
9/19/05 Indrid Cold Interesting how the profound message of so many "smart" movies is that love is the answer. 4 stars
9/02/05 Naka Strange and beautiful on every level. Kaufman is a genius. 5 stars
8/25/05 sbpat21 genius... 5 stars
8/06/05 Zack Another great Charlie Kaufman film! 5 stars
7/12/05 R.W. Welch Contrary to prevailing opinion, originality is not totally dead. See this pic. 4 stars
4/21/05 chris. important for film, important for idiots 5 stars
11/19/04 Brazilian John Great film. Original, true and competent 5 stars
11/17/04 My Two Cents No reviews I correctly identified the device of the twin brother 5 stars
10/21/04 Pete Richardson Wonderful story that dazzles the heart and the brain 5 stars
9/25/04 Agent Sands As a screenwriter, I can relate to EVERY SINGLE THING that happens to Charlie Kaufman in it 5 stars
9/22/04 Ron Peetoom Hard to imagine but...:even better than ´´Being John Malkovich´´ 5 stars
9/10/04 sebastian blume most original script in years 5 stars
8/16/04 Peter James A love it or hate it film...about a story within a story within a story...amazing 5 stars
8/01/04 Charles Meyerson Thought-provoking, funny and brilliantly acted 5 stars
4/11/04 Wildcarde1 i laughed , i cried...naw i just was bored 2 stars
2/03/04 Jack Bourbon About as funny as I've ever seen. Most unpredictable film ever. 5 stars
1/30/04 yeahboy DoN ur watching too much horror movies lately dat uve 4gotten hw 2 use ur brain 5 stars
1/25/04 Bomolub Perversely twisted and bizarre; blurs movie/reality boundaries wonderfully. 5 stars
1/10/04 Charles Tatum Oh God, I am Charlie Kaufman! 5 stars
12/11/03 Aaron A great film more people need to see. It's a shame movies like Bad Boys 2 make more money. 5 stars
11/23/03 A Williams a very inventive intelligent film 4 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee A boring story. I almost fell asleep until the crazy, crazy ending with the psychos. 2 stars
10/12/03 Dark Barøn Speachless. 5 stars
10/11/03 Jinnvisible (Art-twin+sellout-twin)%(Art-film+sellout-ending)=( Art - credibillity) 2over/rated+$$$£££ 3 stars
10/07/03 picky critic Overrated. One of those what-does-it-mean-to-be-human movies,but not terribly insightful. 3 stars
10/02/03 Harris You are what you love, not what loves you. 5 stars
8/14/03 Phil M. Aficionado A wild and daring ride that bends the mind (just enough); superb acting too. 5 stars
8/02/03 Rusell and Donald Liston Great film. The second best of 2002 besides The Pianist. Donald did not understand it. 5 stars
6/27/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng I fucking love this movie. Spike Jonze is a veteran. Nicolas Cage is awesome. 4 stars
6/25/03 Large Farve My wife chose Just Married over this... My house is shamed... 5 stars
6/24/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik brilliant writing 5 stars
6/18/03 Andrew Callaway Original... intelluctual... Donald is fictional. 4 stars
6/15/03 Flick Chick wonderfully bizarre 5 stars
6/11/03 George Jung If anything else, at least it's original. 4 stars
6/10/03 Jack Bourbon Why does Charlie, and not Donald, get all of the credit for this film? 5 stars
6/06/03 Taylor Fladgate Great actors at their best...what a cast! 4 stars
6/05/03 Erik Van Sant Cage finally makes a good movie! Kaufman and Jonze are a perfect team. 5 stars
5/26/03 mipchunk most definitely the best movie of the year! 5 stars
5/25/03 Jack Sommersby Forced, shallow black comedy piles on the sensationalism and omits the wit. 1 stars
5/21/03 Mickey With A C tedious to watch: black comedy happens suddenly 4 stars
4/17/03 skye chapman BEST MOVIE of the year 5 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon When a movie makes you laugh your ass off simply b/c it shows a gun, it's got to be great. 5 stars
3/30/03 Roy Smith Bizarre but brilliant. 4 stars
3/23/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III GENIUS! 5 stars
3/22/03 Donald Kaufman WORSHIP ME. 5 stars
3/20/03 Shadaan Felfeli i didn't sit through it ! 3 stars
3/19/03 bob mckenzie a vain attempt by kaufman to usurp BJM success 3 stars
3/06/03 me you arse Jesus anyone who didn't like this movie doesn't have a soul 5 stars
3/04/03 Eschenennock Manville Contorted story-within-story; how much is fact and how much is fiction is anyone's guess. 4 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Good Screenplay, but Weak and Contrived Performances. 3 stars
2/03/03 Kyle Amazing. 5 stars
2/03/03 Titus Very artistic, fascinating in many ways, but also a bit unfufilling and depressing. 4 stars
1/27/03 John Bale Remarkable stream of conciousness that expands the art of Cinema. Cage's top performance. 5 stars
1/22/03 Jen Above average film/Wonderful Cast/Being John Malkovich was better/Adapation was too 8 1/2 4 stars
1/20/03 Sandy G. Only the last 20 minutes were entertaining. 2 stars
1/20/03 Josh One of the best films of 2002. 5 stars
1/19/03 Suzz Imaginative aspects to it but also dull, boring and plodding. Audience was laughless. 2 stars
1/17/03 Angolmois It has moments of great poignancy and some (purposefully) ludicrous crap. Acting is superb. 5 stars
1/14/03 Mark Spivey One of the best movies I've ever seen...the most stirring themes one can imagine 5 stars
1/14/03 Lakeside ecrivain Actors true to complex script. Great industry satire! Haveing fun@audience could backfire 4 stars
1/10/03 Sean HM Must see again...pee your pants funny 5 stars
1/06/03 Caiphn Finally Nicholas Cage proves that he can actually act. 4 stars
1/03/03 Monday Morning What a letdown. 3 stars
12/22/02 James VG Great ride. Complex, but w/o having to ask 'What?'. Interestingly woven timelines/dreams. 4 stars
12/20/02 Wayne Give me a fucking break. What a shit film! 1 stars
12/17/02 steven seagal i'd rather punch my own head in than watch this shit. 1 stars
12/16/02 Reid Blackman An emotionally insightful and sharply intelligent film. 5 stars
12/16/02 Steven J Pretentious failure that shoots itself in the foot by the end. Too artsy for its own good! 2 stars
12/09/02 John Failed satire on Hollywood, endevours to prove it's point by becoming what it parodies. 3 stars
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  06-Dec-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Spike Jonze

Written by
  Charlie Kaufman

  Nicolas Cage
  Meryl Streep
  Chris Cooper
  Brian Cox
  John Cusack
  Judy Greer

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