- Spike Jonze
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Monday, March 03, 2003
This premise is both fact and fiction in this fascinating, strikingly original film, from the team that brought us Being John Malkovich (1999). Nicolas Cage plays Kaufman as a desperate man who can’t find a way to create an interesting movie script from a book that’s more about flowers and human nature than about a particular story. He’s anxious and depressive and kind of pathetic. His twin brother Donald is just the opposite, and when the latter decides to become a screenwriter, Charlie’s scenario becomes even more pessimistic.
Years before, New Yorker writer Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) went to Florida to make some research on people who collect, clone and deal with orchids, and some especially rare kinds of them. Her object of research was John Laroche (Chris Cooper), an eccentric, attractive and unique plant dealer of this kind. Kaufman can’t seem to understand two things: the way in which Orlean made flowers such an interesting subject to fill a book and make it worthwhile, and the passion of some people towards certain things in life to make everything else seem unimportant. The very same questions were Orlean’s during her research, and finding the answers was her real quest. Now Kaufman goes through a similar road. And neither is easy or rewarding.
This is no autobiographic account. True, Charlie and Donald Kaufman are the credited writers of this movie’s script, and Susan Orlean’s book is real, as is John Laroche. However, though this film is an account of how this very film was written, it is also in fact a metaphoric retelling of the book, a faithful adaptation in a way, with all characters representing elements from Orlean’s original text. Kaufman did put himself in the script, but did so in a symbolic representation of Susan Orlean, creating for himself a fictitious twin brother to represent another side of oneself, a dark one maybe, though actually lighter in many ways. Streep’s Orlean represents Laroche from the novel, and probably also the orchids in a way, so fascinating, but why? The essence of the book was respected, as were the orchids by the way, intoxicating, fascinating and unforgettable.
The story wraps itself twice and thrice for the sake of entertainment, reflection and self-study. The writer even deconstructs himself and finds out how weak he really is when trying to please others, failing to do so in search of his own satisfaction in the creation of something masturbatory but masterful. The layers of this story are incalculable, just look closely and you’ll find out that everything parallels something else, and everything is there for a reason concerning a moment before or after. Everything. But still, nothing is missing. How could Kaufman think of this? How did he start, how did he finish? I just can’t imagine it, the man’s a genius! This screenplay is one of the best ever written, no doubt about it, and Kaufman deserves (or should I say, the Kaufman twins deserve) unlimited recognition and admiration.
And who better than Spike Jonze to turn such a prodigious script into an enlightened movie? There are no false moves in the direction. And though the screenwriter takes most of the applause in this case, there’s a lot of talent involved. Only check out those performances! Easily Cage’s best, and certainly one of the best from Cooper and Streep too. The three of them are absolutely outstanding, and even though they are and have always been talented, they surprise; words really can’t do them justice. Other talented performers include Tilda Swinton, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox (in the role of real-life screenwriting guru Robert McKee), Judy Greer and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Good score by Carter Burwell.
“The book isn't like that, and life isn't like that, it just isn't!”
Gon C Curiel en Twitter | CriticSociety en Twitter | CriticSociety en Facebook
Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter