I’m a fan of all of the works from writer/director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Her, Where the Wild Things Are), but the 2002 meta-comedy Adaptation is probably my favorite piece from idiosyncratic and deeply thought provoking cinematic voice. Written with his singular brand of existential dread and tack-sharp satire by Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, NY, Anamolisa) and acted with extreme passion by Nicolas Cage (in fabulous dual-role mode), Meryl Steep (one of her most distinctive and atypical performances), and Chris Cooper (lovably skeevy), with expert support around the edges from a wonderful ensemble including Brian Cox (hilarious), Tilda Swinton, Judy Greer, Ron Livingston, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Cara Seymour. I love narratives that center around the doomed artist, and this is one of the more poignant and emotionally involving, if for no other reason that Jonze and Kaufman really cut to the heart of what it means to be struggling to create just exactly what you’re in love with and obsessed with.
On an aesthetic level, the film is so wonderful in every department, with smart and stylish cinematography by Jonze’s regular lenser Lance Acord, a playful yet inquisitive musical score by Carter Burwell, and crisp editing by Eric Zumbrunnen. It’s interesting to note that Jonathan Demme was originally attached to direct the film very early in its development; he remained as one of the film’s producers. Tom Hanks was originally set to play the dual roles that Cage ended up snagging (for a reported $5 million, which makes this artsy-effort all the more interesting in that the big star DIDN’T take a massive pay-cut for working with such offbeat material), while both David O. Russell and Curtis Hanson can be spotted quickly in background parts.
Review by Nick Clement