Inside Charlie Kaufman

The metafictional mayhem inand behindSpike Jonzes Adaptation

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Is Adaptation self-indulgent? Undoubtedly. That, in part, is its subject. To the degree that it's a movie about the writing process and the writer's dilemma—caught between analytical detachment on the one hand and obsessive overidentification with one's characters on the other—I'm not sure anyone other than working writers will care much. But it's hard to imagine audiences not warming to this willfully convoluted movie's broader themes: love, longing, incompleteness, envy, family, and the desire to find comfort and structure in a comfortless, structureless world. In the end, Orlean discovers her life's true passion, and so—following an insight that properly belongs in one of the less reputable self-help manuals, but manages to come off as brave and quixotic—does Charlie. Adaptation is hardly profound, but it's one of the most soulful and loopily romantic movies I've seen all year. For all I know, in real life, Charlie Kaufman may be a raging Lothario with Valentino looks and chicks bearing down on him from every direction. But somehow I doubt it. No matter how many raves the critics send his way, the man steadfastly refuses to be photographed. For this alone, I'm ready to marry him right now.

ADAPTATION WAS DIRECTED BY SPIKE JONZE; WRITTEN BY CHARLIE KAUFMAN AND DONALD KAUFMAN, BASED ON THE BOOK THE ORCHID THIEF BY SUSAN ORLEAN; PRODUCED BY EDWARD SAXON, VINCENT LANDAY AND JONATHAN DEMME; AND STARS NICOLAS CAGE. NOW PLAYING AT AMC CENTURY CITY, PACIFIC GROVE AND MANN CRITERION, LA.

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