“The play’s th’ thing!” While Shakespeare’s play within a play may have been one of the first, Adaptation. seeks again to use the theatre as both means and end. Nicholas Cage surprised me with his effective performances as the Kaufman twins. The best part of his performance is that unlike many people who play twins, Cage does not make them into charicatures; each twin has a wide range of emotion and reaction. The special effects that put the two in the same room or car are also very well done. But a note to the author: I can’t stand split screen. It’s not the author’s fault, but I spend more time looking at the actor and effects and lose the scene’s meaning as a result. A touch of adult attention defecit on my part. Sometime’s I’m just a monkey looking for a shiny toy, easily distracted.
Where was I? Oh, right.
The story focuses on a screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, with terrible writer’s block and a horrible case of personal inertia. I’ve been there. He’s staring at a blank page and decides to use coffee as a reward when he has typed something. I have had the same thought, using an artificial carrot on a stick to propel myself forward on an otherwise unrewarding task. As the movie unfolds, the choppy and confusing style at the beginning make complete sense: we are the test audience for the screenwriter’s failed attempts.
Every performance is very well executed, delivering the movie in a way that can’t be done by lesser actors. The film’s mockery of Hollywood, of writers, of itself is so interwoven that sometimes it’s hard to tell where the sarcasm ends. At one point in the film I questioned if Charlie’s twin Donnie had taken over and was writing the ending. The constant mockery is also a clever way to excuse any of the things that don’t work. If one doesn’t like a visual effect, such as starting the movie with voice on a black screen, the film’s authors can claim it was part of the entire idea of a poorly written movie. The story, the actual tale about flowers and the orchid thief, was a perfectly ordinary Hollywood piece. Only the book within a screenplay within a movie revives the interest.
The characters and erratic plot connections are dark and Magnolia-esque, but the device is successful…and no frogs this time.