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Adaptation Review

"Adaptation", Intermedia, 2002


This may be my least favourite Charlie Kaufman film, but for a man who has proved time and time again how prolific and instantaneously classic his writing style is, that's far from negative criticism in the grander scheme of 2000s Hollywood cinema. His witty nihilism still manages to shine through, delivering his high-mindedness through a cheeky lens that pokes fun at the larger-than-life questions that he often poses in his work.

Kaufman and Jonze are incredibly forthright with just about everything that they touch on - yet it's not at the same time. Although the writer isn't shy about delving into the darkest corners of humanity and metaphorically swimming through the current of existentialism that haunts society, his more direct line of questioning he employs in Adaptation is somewhat jarring in comparison; Pretty much laughing at the notion of self-improvement and the responsibilities that individuals choose to weigh themselves down with. Moulded by a very precise tone of comedy that is peddled in conjunction to the seriousness (that is to be expected) throughout the film, it's also the way in which Kaufman shapes the world around Charlie's story: the world being the real world, where his other movies like "Being John Malkovich" also exists. This just goes to show how differently he's treating his meta pretentiousness, and it's equal parts brilliant and strange to watch. This sheer overtness that is channeled into the story can also be seen with the (almost omnipresent) sense of irony that is poetically manifested into his characters, who spend the film scrambling trying to find the right in the wrong to justify their moral fall from grace; Cleverly, and yet somewhat comically, personified by the 'plant'. Although Kaufman carefully calves around the screenplay developing a rabbit-hole of multiple plot-threads that bounce around but manage to be stitch together seamlessly, it's the way that the plot, boils down to conventional structures. Arguably critiquing the familiar motif of pattern, the diegesis, eventually becomes 4 layers deep looking into one another, amounting into a hodge-podge of obsessiveness that never unfolds back out.

Nevertheless, as much as the writing perfectly dances around the cycle of addiction the screenplay teters on, it's the absence of any self-contained 'wow moments' that pieces everything together, to put it plainly, which I think is the result of this change of direction regarding the treatment. One of the many things I admire about Kaufman is how his works resonate with the audience, often achieved through gripping, poetic imagery, and I believe the literal nature of the story prevents any lasting impression beyond the absurdity.

In conclusion, the writer continues to show us how we are each still flawed, as well as how we can't really much do about it but wish we weren't. We're uncontained, as safe as we think we are with the cycling pattern of life looking for the next thing. The meaning of life: life itself, a collage of moments where we, ourselves, try to find the plot.


4.5/5 Stars



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