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Adaptation. – The Year of Cage: Chapter 4

Every week or so, our resident film critic Jeff will be watching and reviewing a Nicolas Cage film. This week? 2002's Adaptation..

There is a line of dialogue around the climax of 2002's Adaptation., written for the fictional Donald Kaufman, the twin brother of the fictional version of the man who wrote the screenplay, and it works as a nod to the kind of overtly cheesy but nonetheless sentiment-packed movie line that might end up getting quoted in high school yearbooks: "You are what you love, not what loves you." Filtering this through the lens of this sorta reality, possibly the most meta film ever constructed, one can read that line as such: Charlie Kaufman is what he loves (screenwriting), and not what loves him." The second "what" in question is, perhaps, ambiguous, but maybe it's the film industry? It would not surprise me if he intentionally hid this notion into an otherwise straight-forward bit of quotable cliche (in fact, it feels all the more wholly fitting).


CHRIS COOPER IS A DELIGHT IN THIS FILM AS JOHN LAROCHE, THE AMERICAN HORTICULTURIST WHO WAS ARRESTED FOR POACHING WILD GHOST ORCHIDS WHILE WORKING FOR THE SEMINOLE NATIVES IN FLORIDA. I DON'T TOTALLY GET THIS LINE DELIVERY (LIKE, IS IT A REFERENCE TO SOMETHING?), BUT I FIND IT REALLY FUNNY.

THIS MIGHT BE MY FAVORITE SCENE IN THE WHOLE FILM. STREEP IS TREMENDOUS AND IT STRIKES THAT CORD BETWEEN ABSURD AND TENDER, WHICH IS KAUFMAN'S SWEET SPOT.


I would actually go a step further and say that this is not only the most meta narrative ever put on camera, but that Kaufman's screenplay is one of the best in film history, period. Of course, through the lens of this Nicolas Cage project, it's certainly among the finest and most interesting works I'm going to get to watch. Cage is phenomenal and a big reason why everything works, but the idea is still bigger than he is (a feat in and of itself?).

ANOTHER OF THE MANY SMALL ROLES THAT HELP TO MAKE THIS MOVIE A CLASSIC IS JUDY GREER AS THE WAITRESS. THE LOOK ON HER FACE WHEN SHE REALIZES CAGE IS ASKING HER OUT ON A DATE!

THE DONALD KAUFMAN SUBPLOT PROVIDES MUCH OF THE HUMOR AND THAT IS IN LARGE PART TO CAGE'S PERFORMANCE. SIDEBAR TO THIS SIDEBAR: I WOULD LOVE TO SEE SOMEONE TRY TO MAKE HIS FAKE SCRIPT FOR THE 3 A REAL MOVIE.


The meta never ends. In my recent rewatch, I was able to detect more and more elements. Nearly everything that transpires is in some way, shape or form related to the idea of and relationship between frustration and creativity (or, in Kaufman's own words: "a passion for wanting to know what it feels like to know something passionately" and how that is a cursed existence in and of itself).

THE FUNNIEST THING IN THE WHOLE DANG MOVIE.

THIS SCENE DOES THE BEST JOB AT GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE FRUSTRATION INHERENT IN NOT BEING ABLE TO COME UP WITH ANYTHING CLOSE TO A GOOD IDEA.


All of the other actors are more than game for this absurdism as well. Meryl Streep shines as Susan Orleans, the author. Chris Cooper is a delight as the sophisticated Florida Man, the subject. And in brief, but important roles, Ron Livingston as the pervert agent and Brian Cox as real life screenwriter guru Robert McKee are a delight.  And Spike Jonze, a true weirdo in his own right, doesn't get enough credit for playing it mostly straight in the director's chair. He recognizes the talent of Charlie Kaufman and he lets the genius script do what it has to and speak for itself. That's the reason this film is a modern classic.

THE 3 INSTANCES OF "HAPPY TOGETHER"–THE PERFECT THEME SONG FOR THIS FILM.

NORMALLY WHEN THE TITULAR LINE IS READ IN A FILM, IT IS CRINGE. BUT HERE, THE DOUBLE IF NOT TRIPLE MEANING... SO SUBTLE. MAGIC.


THE VERDICT: 10 CAGES OUT OF 10

Every Friday, www.VernonHowl.com is proud to bring you a new entry into our project THE YEAR OF CAGE, wherein the entire filmography of Nicolas Cage will be watched + reviewed in alphabetical order. Next up? Amos & Andrew!

Bang it here for all our š”—š”„š”¢ š”œš”¢š”žš”Æ š”¬š”£ ā„­š”žš”¤š”¢ content. Shalom.

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