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Following up their acclaimed debut, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze are back to metaphysical moviemaking with ADAPTATION. The film stars Nicolas Cage as both Charlie Kaufman himself and his fictionalized identical twin brother, Donald Kaufman. While the boisterous Donald freeloads off of his sibling and works on a serial-killer movie script, Charlie is tormented by both his own army of neuroses and his new project, adapting THE ORCHID THIEF by Susan Orlean into a screenplay. As Charlie struggles to shape the nonfiction novel into a film, he begins writing himself into the story of Orlean (Meryl Streep), a sad-eyed journalist, and her subject, renegade Florida flower expert John Laroche (Chris Cooper). The resulting tale extends far beyond the scope of the book, stretching from Hollywood to New York to...Hollywood four billion years ago.Equally as inventive as BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION revels in its gloriously absurd premise. Kaufman and Jonze skillfully sidestep the pitfalls of such a seemingly self-indulgent project, creating a multilayered film that focuses on the writing process as well as the nature of beauty, the beauty of nature, and dozens of other significant themes. Cage makes a stunning return to pre-Bruckheimer form in the roles of the Kaufman brothers, giving their identical appearances completely different personalities and making them believable to boot. Meanwhile, the consistently excellent Streep and the often underrated Cooper are perfectly matched as Orlean and Laroche. Even the less central roles are played by great actors--Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Ron Livingston appear as supporting characters. Careening wildly between the hilarious, the ridiculous, and the poignant, Kaufman and Jonze's ADAPTATION is another fine example of their bravura yet sincere style of cinema.
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