Charlie Kaufman is the greatest writer working today. That is a fact that I realized after watching both this and his directorial debut Synechdoche, New York. Kaufman has the ability to craft the most unique and engaging stories that capture you and proceed to amaze you and leave you in a state of awe. To compliment his masterful writing you have the excellent directing from Spike Jonze, a common collaborator of Kaufman. That is the exact case when it comes to Adaptation. What you have here is the story of himself, Charlie Kaufman, as he was adapting a book into the movie that you are currently watching. Of course there are clear fictitious pieces that enhance the story but for the most part it is the true struggles of a writer who is having trouble.
One of the greatest pieces of this film is the acting. Here you have the talents of Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Copper, and Nicolas Cage. That’s right. You have Nicolas Cage in a double role as Kaufman and his fictitious twin brother Donald. This is, without a doubt, one of if not the greatest performances of Cage’s career. Here you have all of the key emotions that are needed to be displayed by Cage throughout the film: Desperation, fear, anger, hatred, jealously, happiness, success, naivety, misunderstanding, all mixed with self-hating behaviors, low self-esteem, and an overall loss of control. This results in one hell of a character to play, and Cage plays every second of it brilliantly. You have him switching back and forth between two completely different people. You have the completely desperate, sad, and unsure of himself Charlie. From there he also has to play the part of the naive, dumb, and incredibly happy twin brother Donald. They are essentially exact opposites and yet in both performances Cage sells them.
To Compliment Cage you have Streep and Cooper (In an Oscar-Winning role) as the author and her subject of the book that she’s writing, respectfully. Streep is excellent as always as Susan Orlean, the woman who realizes that she has been living an empty and meaningless life after meeting a passionate man named Laroche played by Cooper. Laroche is an incredibly intelligent botanist who is the subject of Orleans book about his search for the ghost orchid in the swamps of Florida. When you are first introduced to the character, all of his actual traits are hidden behind his lack of front teeth, his southern accent, and the fact that he was walking through a swamp. Soon after he is introduced and after he out-smarts a police officer, you realize that he is none of what he seems. Cooper is brilliant in this role. He plays his character as a redneck idiot which makes it all the more powerful when he has his pieces of brilliance. He is a passionate man, he is a committed man, and his is unlike most other characters you will come across. This is all reflected in Coopers performance.
As I mentioned before, this films screenplay by Kaufman is truly extraordinary. You have at some points the process of making a film about making a film in the film that you are watching which is about making a film. Take a look at how odd and kind of confusing that sentence is. You now understand the basics of this films story. All of the characters are masterfully written. They are witty, occasionally charming, relatable, and honest. This film handles subjects like doubt in ones self or desperation with ease as it takes you into the perspectives of the characters. This is all done through the writing which engulfs you into the story. It is a well-paced and consistently interesting that never ceases to leave your jaw on the floor scene after scene.
One of the greatest examples of both the writing and the acting from Nic Cage comes from a scene where Kaufman has the breakthrough that he will make the film about him making the film. You have him talking rapidly into his handheld tape recorder going through the opening shot. It is a few seconds into this explanation where I realized that he was outlining the opening shot of the film that I was currently watching. He was going through his thought process and how he created the first few scenes and it was brilliant. It not only gave you an insight into the writing and to the character of Kaufman, but also it made the entire film feels more honest.
This film is the definition of a modern masterpiece. There is literally no flaws that I can find in this film. Only reasons why I adore it.