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starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper

by david    January 13, 2003

The only reservation I have about heartily recommending Adaptation to everyone I know is this: I'm not sure how enjoyable it will be for someone who is not either a writer, or somehow involved in the film & TV industry. I've lived in Los Angeles as an actor (and occasional writer) for four years now, and I've lost all perspective.

Apart from that uncertainty -- I loved this flick. I have a love/hate relationship with Nic Cage as an actor, but he's really brilliant in this (he plays both Charlie Kaufman, and his fictional brother, Donald). Meryl Streep is great as Susan Orlean, Chris Cooper a comic delight as LaRoush, and I dig Brian Cox and Ron Livingston in anything. And Spike Jonze, as director, does a great job bringing the story to life and keeping it moving.

But the real star here is Kaufman's script. In brief: while filming is underway for Being John Malkovich, Kaufman is commissioned to adapt Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief into a movie, and it just doesn't work out. Turns out, Orlean had written an article for the New Yorker about this orchid thief dude. When she was asked to turn it into a book, she found she hadn't enough material for a whole book, and so inserted herself into the story, making her book mostly about her trying to write a book about LaRoush, the orchid thief. When Kaufman discovers there's just not enough in the book to make a movie, he inserts himself and his brother into the story, making his movie about trying to write his screenplay. So, this is a movie about a guy writing a movie about himself trying to write a screenplay about an author who wrote a book about herself trying to write a book based upon an article she wrote about a guy who steals rare orchids for no apparent good reason except pure passion. And it is fucking brilliant. It's funny and sad and weird and brilliant.

After writing that last paragraph, I've lost all reservation about recommending this movie. Go and see it as soon as you can. It's possible you won't like it, but who cares? I think it's brilliant. It'll definitely win Best Screenplay, it should be a contender for Best Ensemble (in the SAG awards), and it might be a contender for Best Picture. You should just see this movie.

starring: Noah Taylor, John Cusack, Leelee Sobieski

by david    January 13, 2003

Max is a movie about an art dealer (John Cusack) in post WWI Germany, who discovers a young, troubled artist named Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor), and attempts top mentor him, hoping he has discovered the next great artist. Sounds intriguing, no?

That's just the problem. It sounds intriguing, But it's not. In the least. Almost from moment one, Max is boring as hell. It's got good actors in it, and the direction seems fine, it's just never able to get off the ground. Maybe the script is too self-conscious. Maybe I, as a spoiled American, don't fully grasp post-war Germany. Maybe it just needed a more aggressive editor. I don't know. Whatever the problem, this fucking movie bored me to tears. It's barely two hours long, but they were the longest two hours in my recent memory. Even my deep, intense hatred of Leelee Sobieski could not make this pic interesting.

I want to support Cusack -- he's one of my favorite actors. And Taylor seems an intriguing fellow. But I just can't recommend this flick. I can't. I respect you all too much.

Okay, so I don't respect you. Still, just don't go see this crap, okay?

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