Rewatched Jul 13, 2012
Carl Ingebretsen’s review:
There's a wonderful scene about an hour into this film, where Brian Cox plays screenwriting guru Robert McKee. In the scene he summarizes some of the principal rules of screenwriting; "[...]don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Now, the reason I love this scene, and I'd go as far as saying that it's one of the best scenes in the history of cinema, is because it breaks EVERY GODDAMN RULE IN THE BOOK WHILE SETTING IT UP! More to the point, it works perfectly.
Here's a scene where a Deus ex Machina talks about not using them and, with a few lines, gives the main character inspiration to change by stating that "change must come from within". It's an incredibly easy scene (two guys in a bar, talking about screenwriting), yet it's hard and deep, controversial and contradictory.
The rest of the film follows suit. Adapation. is about Charlie Kaufman's struggle. With life, with Hollywood (regarding things like "The Three"), with love and with writing. Specifically, it's about Charlie's struggle with turning Susan Orlean's book, "The Orchid Thief", into a movie. Fresh off his success on Being John Malkovich, he wants to write a movie about flowers, because no one's ever done that before. He also wants to make it straight-forward, to push himself forward as a writer.
During the film we dig deeper into the writing, The Orchid Thief (both the book and the person), the writers of the stories (Charlie, Donald the twin brother and Susan herself) and their lives. What makes them worth living? Are they happy? Why aren't they happy?
There's so much going on in this film, so much contradicting of the "rules" and principles, either for screenwriting, life and how to live it and everything else. By writing a movie about a writer writing an adaptation and his struggles regarding it, we see so much of life. Our struggles, mankind's struggles, in love, in life, in everything.
And that's what this movie is about. Everything. And nothing. Adaptation. breaks every rule and principle in the proverbial book and it gets away with it. The actors are amazing, Spike Jonze's directing pitch-perfect, but this film shines in the brilliant script - a script about nothing. At the end of this, nothing really happens. Sure, all the characters go through a lot, but have they changed? Do they have epiphanies? Do these epiphanies work out for them? When this film is over, you realize that no one really did anything. This movie is as close to true life as you get. That's what it's about; living. The choices we make. The things we don't dare do, or change.
And yet, somewhere in here, is a movie about flowers. Along with an adaptation of The Orchid Thief it lies there, ready to be uncovered, ready to be experienced. By writing about nothing, Charlie Kaufman writes about everything. He makes us laugh, he makes us smile, he makes us care.
That's what it all really boils down to, in the end. Us caring about something, no matter what - fish, story, nurseries, orchids, whatever. Do that, and you'll be fine.