8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2004
For me, Adaptation is, and will always be a satire on Hollywood with an algorithmic structure. And sadly enough, it is this dominant shade of being ironically mirthful that one can't help but being not affected by it completely. As it degenerates into "yet another" Hollywood film in the second half to offer a proof of the stuff Hollywood's crammed with (sloppy mushy sentimentality, life-redeeming lessons, drama, sex, car-chases, drugs) from what had started out to be a near-nil-conflict chronicle of an orchid thief (with lush, novel ideas about Darwin and extinction and exotic foliage), one can't help but marvel at the devastatingly original overall concept, but moved emotionally, one might not be [it isn't the film's intention anyway, so that's okay].
And quite amusingly, the movie makes no two bones about taking a dig at itself as well. The speech at the Robert McKee's story seminar, midway through the film, can well be the film's most perfect and comprehensive critique. With such fantastic self-awareness, it would be wrong to say that Adaptation isn't a brave, new film. For in all sense of words, it is all this and much more. For starters, there's a sumptuous lot of matter for grey-cells to gorge upon.
Like there's a casual stab on how differently the two mediums of leisure- cinema and books work. Interestingly enough, moving more intrinsically, the parallel drawn between the Kaufman brothers could well be a metaphor for the parallel betwixt saddeningly reducing original cinema and maddeningly flourishing rehashed cinema.
And then the omnipresent question -- Why "adaptation" as a title? In my words, it was about the living world affecting art, the people affecting artists, influencing their work everyday, and it only took little more than a single interaction for this influence to show in mediums of art. As McKee answers Charlie in the middle of film "You said nothing happens in the real world? Are you out of your mind? People are murdered everyday. There's genocide, war, corruption. Everyday, somewhere in the world somebody sacrifices his life to save somebody else. Everyday, someone somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love. People lose it.... somebody gopes hungry, somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find all this life, then you, my friend don't know crap about life." Evidently enough, Donald, Charlie's happy-go-lucky brother's rehashed thriller screenplay is a sellout even as Charlie struggles to find a thread in his. Because Charlie fails to see the world around him. The moving, hustling-bustling world. The world full of drama, love, betrayal, disappointment, depseration, sex, drugs, fast car-chases, changing characters, life-redeeming lessons.
In all, art imitates life; its affected by the environment around it, by the people around it, and successful artists adapt to this change through interaction [like when Donald meets Susan and then the freewheeling mystery about the real Susan unfolds as he spies on her turning the whole film to a grand conclusion] while self-pitying, self-deprecating, paranoid-perfectionists who think they are unoblivious about the world around them, and by being loners they'll know it [like Charlie, who's mystified by Susan's writing and photograph-- which is, not the real Susan as the film hangs onto the first half], remain, well, confused. Adaptation is the key to survival--for plants, animals, people, artists.
Aside from the underlying interpretations and the linked philosphies, Adaptation boasts of some wrenchingly seasoned performances with each of the veterans cosseted deep into the instinct of the characters. So much so that however excellent Meryl Streep might be, she remains as detached, as uncommunicative and as unlikeable as Susan should be. Ditto for Chris Cooper, though the addition of sentimentality and awe to his character as he's the muse for Susan's book, adds a sparkle of effectuality which Cooper is all too happy to bask in.
And as for Nicholas Cage, who dominates every frame in the twin brother act, in one word he's spectacular. Besides keeping the layered energy of the film much intact, the consistency in his histrionics, especially towards the second half, where the real-Hollywood-syndrome sets in is awe-inspiring [esp. the scene where Donald says "You are what you love and not what loves you"--ironically, a life-redeeming lesson]. Be it the camaradarie between the twins, the bizzareness of Charlie, or the lucidity of Donald, Cage sails through a lifetime of emotions effortlessly. Of the supporting cast, Brian Cox (as McKee) and Cara Seymour (as Amelia) are exceptional and so are the acoustics. The throughly effective visuals are breathtaking [the 10-second evolution video], unsettling [the car-crashes, the swamp] and undistracting [the twin-brother act is so wonderfully conceptualised sans any snazzy or strange visual effects].
Overall, being a stimulating, gripping satire meant it is not completely moving [and might be mistaken as pointless by a casual viewer] but its a sickeningly clever and innovative film that'll have you pondering bigtime in the first half and guessing in the second and you'll appreciate it more everytime you think about it. If its time you did some thinking about creativity, about art, about changing cinema... then maybe its time, you watched Adaptation. Very stimulating.
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2011
Sometimes I feel obliged to write a review, so that others don't make the same mistake that I've just done, in buying "Adaptation". It's not that it's the worst movie ever, but it's certainly not worth the high rating on IMDB that prompted my purchase.
The film is about Nicolas Cage's struggle for inspiration as he tries to make a movie script out of a book penned by Meryl Streep, describing a rare orchid hunter whom she has been studying (Chris Carter).
My gripes with the film are as follows;
1) In making "Adaptation" about Cage's "writer's block", it stands to reason that not very much is going to happen, as the movie is ABOUT not very much happening.
2) A fairly large portion of the film is about Carter's search for an elusive orchid, yet as Meryl Streep's character herself comments after a while, "it's just a flower". Yeah, precisely; that's probably why I'm feeling bored watching this then!
3) More than one person in the film comments on how fascinating a personality Chris Carter's orchid-hunting character has, but if you the viewer weren't told this, you wouldn't pick up on it at all yourself.
4) A "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar for Carter and 3 other thinly deserved Oscar nominations for the film drew me into thinking this might be worth a watch. It wasn't.
5) It seems to be a fundamental law of the Universe that every Nicolas Cage film comes highly recommended by somebody, and then turns out to be poor. This movie somewhat continues that trend. I actually think that his performance is OK though, it's the film that's all too often dull.
6) Have you ever bought a movie which proudly boasts "you'll laugh, you'll cry" and then you've done neither? Yep; well this DVD cover has another such dismayingly misleading quote; describing it as "The funniest film of the year". Believe me this statement is such a massive con as to be libellous; not only is it not funny once, it's not even trying to be funny once, (is it)? Truly "Schindler's List" was more amusing.
In the interests of a balanced review, there are some good moments in this film and I'd still give it two and a half stars, but a few more disappointing indie flicks like this and I'll be performing an about turn and going back to watching dumb Hollywood blockbusters to get some entertainment.