Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Journey We All Take:

Some Brief Thoughts on Spike Jonez's, Adaptation

Adaptation is a profound natural process by which living things unconsciously mutate over time in order to achieve greater concordance with their surroundings. Adaptation can also be a mechanical process though which a pre-existing thing is consciously remade in order to fulfill some other purpose -- i.e., adapting a novel for the screen. It's with thoughts such as these that the movie Adaptation begins -- and ends. In between, director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman poke through so many portals of inquiry that it's a sheer triumph in and of itself that their film didn't wind up lost down some black hole of imagination. The final result, however, is one of the finest films of this young decade.

The film centers on it's writer, Charlie Kaufman. Charlie doesn't want to write standard-issue movies brimming with sex, guns, car chases, and characters who come to profound life decisions. He wants to be able to write a movie about flowers, although he finds it difficult to do so without telling the entire history of the universe. (A montage sequence early in the film actually manages to relate this multimillennial history in an awesome and amusing display of cinematic bravado.)His twin brother, Donald is a hot new writer who's recent, and highly cliched serial killer script just scored him recent acclaim and popularity. Two men who look exactly the same with totally different personalities.

Adaptation(quite purposely)both succeeds and fails at its own game. The first two-thirds of the movie are an amazing writer's journey through the mutually linked paths of creation and self-doubt(Charlie's portion).
Then, by the third act, Kaufman adds in a secret love story, drugs, swamp chases, etc. -- everything that any studio production chief would want to see in a script(this would be the fictional Donald's portion). The first thought is that Kaufman couldn't find a way to write himself out of his wacky story and therefore took the easy way out. Only later can his tactic be seen as, perhaps, the purest delivery of the central themes from "The Orchid Thief"(the book from which the film was meant to be adapted).

Kaufman's ending has since been looked at as too "self aware" or too easy. However, I feel sometimes people tend to look at the ending merely at a surface level. "Oh yeah, I get the joke, Charlie...whatever." When, in fact, the "joke" is simply an accompaniment to the perfect adaptation. He ultimately parallels his own story with that of Orlean(writer of The Orchid Thief) and effectively conveys her sentiments about the elusive Ghost Orchid in a most relatable, and cunning way.

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