Kaufman: Okay, we open at the beginning of time.
20. Adaptation (2002) – Dir. Spike Jonze
I could have 20 different films fill this spot, but I kept coming back to this rule-breaking gem. For starters, it has three great performances from its three stars. Meryl Streep showing a lot of vulnerability, Chris Cooper (Oscar winner) stealing every scene he gets his hands on, and Nicolas Cage in his last great (and I mean great) role playing two different and believable people. But besides that, the film is smart, funny, self-aware, self-deprecating, and crammed with memorable scenes and lines.
All that sounds great and certainly makes a good argument, but what stands out? What makes this a film I cannot leave off this list? For me, when making such lists, I think about a film’s technical quality. How good is the acting? (Amazing as I’ve said before) Is it well written and does it look good? Yes and Yes!
I also think about a film’s ability to speak to me personally. With Adaptation, it’s not just the struggle to write or search for artistic truth that I value, but the sad romanticism laced throughout the movie. Think about the scene where Cage is comparing the women he is watching with the many different flowers and how he finds beauty in every woman. It is sad and touching in a surprising way because most the movie is so off the wall. But it is this emotion that grounds the lunacy, and keeps the whole movie from flying off the rails.
Also, how entertaining is the movie? I mean, there are some very well made pieces of shit out there. What is the point if something is boring? Adaptation is anything but boring, but what makes it great is I find new things to appreciate with each viewing. After you sort out all the pieces of the complex narrative that jumps through time (and fake time)[and real real time], then you notice things that enrich and enhance the movie. Everyone likes a video game you can play over and over again, and the same is true for a movie.
And in the end, the whole thing turns into exactly what the main character says he doesn’t want (Car chases, lessons learned, drugs, guns), but by sacrificing a little, a bigger truth is understood. Not just by Cage, but the audience, thus making this a film I had to put on this list.