A catch-all distinction such as “weirdest screenwriter” might be a hard one to pin down, but Charlie Kaufman makes it easy; he’d easily be near or at the top of that list. For instance, in adapting the novel The Orchid Thief into a film, Kaufman ran into severe writer’s block, and when he finally finished, he ended up with a screenplay detailing a fictionalized experience of writer’s block in adapting The Orchid Thief into a film. What. Yeah, that’s a typical reaction to a Charlie Kaufman script. Nevertheless, Adaptation ended up a surprise sleeper hit, garnering numerous awards and nominations and generally being well-liked in the process.
Spike Jonze directs this playful antic of a film (he and Kaufman previously worked together on Being John Malkovich), and the anchoring performance is given by none other than Nicolas Cage. Cage pulls double duty here as both Charlie and his fictional twin brother Donald; funny anecdote, Kaufman credited the script to both himself and Donald, making Donald Kaufman the only completely fictional person to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. Cage plays both men as functionally the same, but each with different enough characteristics; his manic energy he brings to most of his roles fits Kaufman’s material and self-character perfectly – he doesn’t overdo it, instead he channels it back into the character. I’ve rarely seen Cage this good, and he makes the film what it is. As for the script, it’s not as directly weird in form as it is in premise, but it still remains solidly grounded even when it plays with storytelling conventions, often flagrantly in the face of the rules themselves, as per the bits with Robert McKee’s seminars.
Kaufman’s scripts tend to be decidedly meta, and that’s what makes them so much fun to watch; the toying with tropes that goes on makes the film an entirely original experience. A Kaufman film is just so different from any other film out there, that to have one (or in this case, two) on the must see list seems like one of the easiest decisions to make. Jonze directs the film with care and attention to detail, and Kaufman’s script is in good hands with a director like him. Give this a once-over; it’s definitely worth the watch, and hopefully, you’ll be more interested to try other varying types of films after seeing this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10