Thomas Thompson


30th June 2004
Adaptation Poster reviewer: Thomas Thompson
rating: 1 out of 5
directed by: Spike Jonze
written by: Susan Orlean
starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
genre: Drama Comedy
released: 28th February 2004

"Oh I got it. It's very clever."

"How's that working out for you?"


"Being clever?"


"Good. Keep it up then."

Adaptation is a very clever film. It's oh so very intelligent. It's obvious that this Charlie Kaufman fellow is a smart chap. Now, why is it, having watched this film, I have a real hatred of this Hollywood scriptwriter?

Quite simple really, Adaptation didn't just take two hours of my life, it took two hours of my life and made them feel like eight hours of my life, and for the entire duration of the two hours that felt like eight, it proceeded to bore me to tears. To tears! And to top it off, nearly a year on, I still can't watch Nicolas Cage in any other role in the same way I used to.

Adaptation is, basically, very boring. It took a real effort to watch through to the credits. The film revolves around Nicolas Cage playing Charlie Kaufman (as well as his twin brother, also a scriptwriter), as he spends 90 minutes struggling to adapt a book into a screenplay. He decides to write himself into the screenplay, and make it about his struggle to adapt this book. He worries if this is too self absorbed. He worries about this a lot. For 90 minutes. Then the film goes in a different direction. It's equally rubbish, but very clever. Clever it is; entertaining it is very much not. Excruciatingly bad, but articulate. Very very smart, but, y'know; shit.

Can a clever film be a bad film? Yes. Why shouldn't it be? What is it about smarts that would make it instantly a classic? Is a clever joke automatically funny because it is clever? Where does humour fit in?

After reading plenty of outstanding reviews of this film, I rented it, expecting a "thinking man's" comedy. This isn't a thinking man's comedy. This is a film that you can use to make yourself feel intelligent, to levitate yourself above people with lower intelligence (the ones who don't "get it"), to really get those elitist juices flowing. My advice? Don't bother. Find another film to do that, one that is actually at the very least watchable. Something from the Art House genre perhaps?

The worst film I've had the displeasure of seeing is not badly acted. Nor is it badly shot. It doesn't have 2 dimensional characters, poor set pieces, or a lack of diversity. What it does have is some very poor characters, whinging buggers who really aught to be shot if they're going to feature in a film, or at the very least not be gifted the lead role. It's a premise that isn't particularly original, adapted into a plot that's really not compelling. At all. It goes through a few changes, it has a couple of sub plots, and at one point a small glimmer of hope shines as the set of Being John Malkovich is visited, then promptly left and memories of the earlier Kaufman scripted flick attain to just how bad this film is. Being John Malkovich wasn't particularly deserving of all its praise, but at least it was original, and witty to some extent. Adaptation just isn't. Original or witty. In hindsight it's not even watchable.

The one thing the film has going for it is the discussion it can invoke afterwards. Is it worth it? Simply, no, it isn't. Not by a very long way. Avoid.