|It's official. Nicolas Cage has finally abandoned the pretense of presenting himself as an action hero and has thrown himself into a role both mentally and physically to arrive on screen with a performance which fairly eclipses anything he did in the entire decade of the 1990's. With such misguided efforts as Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Windtalkers, and Bringing Out the Dead being his latest cinematic outings, it is certainly a welcome slap in the face to see Cage trying on a role where his action hero ambitions don't get in the way of his performance.|
And with Meryl Streep really letting loose in a role for the first time in a long while as well, and fact that this film can boast one of the best performances of his career from Chris Cooper, the caliber of acting in this film ensures that the comedic impact Adaptation will propel the film into Oscar territory. One should expect no less than perfection from such actors, but when all the elements of this film come together, it really shows up as a much better feature film than just about anything in current release. The only stumbling block for this film's well-deserved success is the amount of jokes that are directed at an audience familiar with the reel-life society present in Los Angeles.
While some movies about the film industry contain a large amount of material that only people knowledgeable about Hollywood would "get," Adaptation contains so much inside info that it's hard to say how many jokes will be understood by the general oblivious movie-going public. For example, how many people who don't know about the rather disrespectful treatment of screenwriters in Hollywood would laugh at the way Nicolas Cage's character is ignored on a movie set he visits? It's anybody's guess as to whether someone not initiated into the wacky world of Hollywood filmmaking would even see the jokes for what they are.
But avid moviegoers just might be able to appreciate the incredible script that Charlie Kaufman created out of his real life experience of trying to adapt Susan Orlean's novel, The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. The title of the film comes from the Hollywood term to turn a previously existing story into a screenplay. It's so specific an art that the Academy Awards even distinguishes it with a different award from those written from an original idea. But barring the fact that this really is a film for movie buffs, the dramatic appeal of the three lead roles should garner respect from most audience members interested in an experience at the movie theater where the jokes don't involve a member of the cast passing gas.
It is safe to say that Columbia Pictures probably didn't look into the demographic information available for the 18 to 24 year old male audience. So assuming those type of ticket-buyers won't be the ones at the box office window, focusing on the benefits for this movie's intended audience allows the critique of the film to rate much higher than it might otherwise. The insider jokes notwithstanding, people who appreciate great performances and realistic drama will doubtlessly stay glued to the screen for the duration of this movie. Seeing what type of performances Cooper, Cage, and Streep are capable of, it would be an insult to audiences for them to create any future films that aren't just as expertly made.
But enough with showering the actors with praise. Much of the credit for these actors' successes in front of the camera should go to the screenwriter. The idea that Charlie Kaufman (the real person) wrote himself into a screenplay and then turned it into a movie about Charlie Kaufman (a character played by Nic Cage), is quite an original take on the "adaptation" process. Whether Kaufman wrote the characters this way on purpose or not, Cage, Cooper, and Streep play characters that are much easier to like than the people Kaufman's 1999 effort, Being John Malkovich. While that film is widely regarded as one of the most original of the past decade, caring about what happened to John Cusack's character was too much of a task.
Nicolas Cage is just as much a screwed up individual as Cusack was, but caring whether Cage's character succeeds is no task at all. The movie is far too enjoyable to create any barriers for the audience to cross such as caring a big fat about each of the characters' destinies. And while the director should receive some of the credit as well for bringing such good performances together with such a well-written script, no person in particular can really take all the credit for the success for the film. The bottom line is that Adaptation is well acted, ingeniously presented, expertly written and directed and is quite possibly the best picture this writer has seen all year.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.