Have you ever tried to write a screenplay? The whole process of writing a screenplay is fascinating to me now that I’ve actually written a few. At first, you convince yourself that you can write a screenplay because you’ve seen so many horrible movies and you think you can do better. Then you sit down to write one and the details start to nag on you. The simple act of formatting it weighs on you because everyone has different advice. Then you get sunk with the ideas of your screenplay and all of a sudden, writing a screenplay is no longer fun, it’s work. I thought a lot about that process while I watched ADAPTATION.
Nicholas Cage stars as Charlie and Donald Kauffman. Charlie is a recluse writer while Donald is a little more lively and trying to become a writer himself. Cage does a fantastic job as the brothers and it should be noted that some of the funniest moments in the film come in their conversations. I would have liked to have seen even more banter between the two. Charlie has been asked to adapt a book by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) into a screenplay and of course, he’s struggling with it. The film is directed by Spike Jonez and written by Charlie Kauffman, so you know there’s a lot more to the story than that and the directions it takes are both confusing and fascinating.
Sometimes I think Kauffman gets away from himself and that’s partially true here. The film succeeds on many levels, but I enjoyed the way Kauffman crafted the story of a writer struggling to write a screenplay and then having that struggle become the actual screenplay. But like with a lot of movies based on good ideas, Kauffman started to lose me with the ending. I probably feel that way because the highlights of the film to me involved the focus on Charlie’s (and to a lesser extent, Donald), struggles with writing the screenplay. I loved the bit on narration and the commentary on writing and was less interested in the story when it involved Susan.
Much like every die-hard racing fan loves every movie about racing, writers love movies about writing. In this case, Cage and Streep give fantastic performances and Spike Jonez takes it from there. Kauffman is one of the most brilliant screenwriters of our generation and as I was watching ADAPTATION, I actually started to look forward to the special edition Blu-ray (which we still don’t have) in which we could hear Charlie talk about the real life inspirations for the film. Nothing is simple in Kauffman’s world and it was a joy to watch his take on the process involved with his own profession.