Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Quotations/Movie Buff: Adaptation

"Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat I would be happier. I wouldn't have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that's fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more, improve myself. What if I learned Russian or something? Or took up an instrument? I could speak Chinese. I'd be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that? Just be real. Confident. Isn't that what women are attracted to? Men don't have to be attractive. But that's not true. Especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it's my brain chemistry. Maybe that's what's wrong with me. Bad chemistry. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I'll still be ugly though. Nothing's gonna change that."
So guess what film I watched last night? Adaptation is a film about... flowers, I guess. Also about screenplay writing. And loneliness. Man, is it about loneliness.
Yeah.... Let me try that again. The plot of the movie is that a screenplay writer, Charlie Kaufman (played by Nicholas Cage) , is hired to write an adaptation of Susan Orlean's (played by Meryl Streep)book, the Orchid Thief. Kaufman is a neurotic, balding, middle-aged man who can't seem to put his life together or barely even function from one day to the next. It doesn't help that his twin brother Donald (also played by Cage) is on the upswing: he's got a steady girlfriend and just sold his first own movie script for at least 5 figures. At the same time, we get Susan's story of a journalist who, in her own way, is as lost as Charlie is. Gradually, it becomes clear that the adaptation Charlie is writing is the movie we're actually watching. And thus the film becomes a bizarre meta-experience. The closest thing I can compare it to is the movie adaptation of Tristam Shandy, which was about the filming of the movie adaptation of Tristam Shandy, and also had a main character who was playing multiple roles. It's almost so aggressively meta at some points that it comes across as a cheap stunt or overly clever joke (I'm looking at you, "discussion on internal monologue" scene), but for the most part it works.

For the record, the movie's real-life writer, Charlie Kaufman, doesn't have a brother. And the real-life Susan Orlean never went to the lengths of the fictional one. Nicholas Cage does a fantastic job as the twin brothers--at points, it's possible to determine which brother you're watching just by their body posture--Charlie is haunched over and nervous, and Donald is wide-eyed and often oblivious. It's a wonderful performance. It's amazing that this is the same man who starred in Ghost Rider.

Oh: and in case anyone's wondering, the vote has been tallied for the most responses ever to my post yesterday, and it looks like I'll be reading The Road. My hopes for this post-apocalyptic story: more sentient dogs, less ridiculous blind men. (And as I look for the link, I realize I never did do that review of "The Book of Eli." Spoilers!)

Later Days.

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