Director: Spike Jonze
Writers: Charlie Kaufman (screenplay), Susan Orlean (book)
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
So, if you were to set out to make a movie about a woman seeking her soul’s desire in the form of a rare white orchid, how would you do it?
Would you begin with a blank screen and a man lying in darkness bemoaning his poor fat stupid body?
Would you pit a woman’s search for passion against a man’s search for the end of his screenplay?
And would you miss your metaphor, skipping past the inspirational glory of insect to flower insemination, soul mating in nature’s garden with uncanny instinct of matched forms to land on an idea that sounds good as long as you don’t say it out loud — “It’s what you love, not what loves you” that matters.
But then there could be a method in your madness. Missing the metaphor of the first two-thirds of Adaptation may indeed be the point after all. It’s hard to imagine that Hollywood has an ending for a film about the pursuit of spirit here on earth. And maybe that’s it. ‘Without a clue, go to the obvious.’ The ending for Adaptation is so familiar that any film buff in the audience could’ve written it themselves.
So there you are, with your audience in full swing believing they are on the verge of discovering the Holy Grail, and, suddenly, you tack on the expected ending of sex, violence and drugs?
There is an alternative but that would not be an Adaptation to the modern world of film making. For a moment, think of what would’ve happened if Meryl Streep’s character had been told by the ever-lovin’ screenwriters how they found her in the swamp. Suppose they revealed that her passion loving guru had posted her on his porn site. She would’ve marched them all into the swamp, taken their boots and let the alligators have lunch. She, meanwhile, would’ve gone back to her well-paying job, sweet husband and rare beyond rare New York apartment on the upper east side — and lived happily ever after as a feminine hero who had found the secret, resisted it being tarnished by commercialism and taken it home.
I can’t be the only viewer who balked at the nonsensical, hackneyed Hollywood ‘boy geek gets dream girl’ ending that sells movies these days. Who believes that a mature, accomplished and beautiful woman would give up her life to be the druggie lover of a guy living in the swamps? For that matter, who believes a man who had spent his life passionately seeking his heart’s desire would throw it away to be a porn site businessman warehousing sacred substances for grade school children. Nope, I just can’t be the only one.
Well, that’s show business — surely it’s not the secret of evolution. But hey, tacking on happy endings is good for laughs. And, when you think about it, the ending is pretty provocative about what Adaptation really means. Beware of what you match with, for it will have its consequences.