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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Adaptation - Released in 2002 - Starring Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper

In 1998, Susan Orlean, an American journalist investigated a case of orchid poaching in a south Florida state preserve. Her book is a glimpse into the peculiarities of the lives of the people in the plant business and the struggles they face on a day-to-day basis. The result was the book “The Orchid Thief”.
In 2002, the book was the inspiration for the movie ‘Adaptation’, in which Meryl Streep plays Susan Orlean, Chris Cooper plays John Laroche , the poacher, and Nicholas Cage brings to life the twin characters of Charlie and Donald Kaufman; in real life, Charlie Kaufman has written the screenplay. The meta character of the film talks about Charlie’s challenges whilst trying to adapt the book for the silver screen, in that it is almost a semi autobiographical memoir of sorts.
The character of Laroche has many interesting shades; here is a man obsessive about creating a clone of the extraordinary Ghost Orchid, to reap rich benefits; the catch is that they grow in an elusive swampland which is Seminole (a Native American Tribe) Territory, the Natives use an extract from the flower for illegal drug use. John takes advantage of the Seminoles’ legal right to use their own ancestral property as they will - and ropes in members of the community to help him out.
His passion is evident when he asks Susan whether she knows why he likes plants:
“You know why I like plants?  Because they're so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.”
Perhaps that sets the cadence for the film - the means of finding out how to succeed in the world. ‘Adaptation’ quibbles over the Darwinian principle of how to adapt, as opposed to how to evolve; it is extrapolated to the excruciating course taken to adapting The Orchid Thief into screenplay.

In the movie, Charlie assays the character of Laroche at great length, but is unable to find more ‘meat’ to adapt this character for the screen; he is also unable to represent the breathtaking beauty of the orchid visually. Since the book is more of reportage, it lacks the inherent drama required for a movie, and therein lies the challenge for Charlie, who suffers from a case of prolonged writer’s block.
Dealing with his own personal demons - depression, social phobia, self loathing - Charlie struggles to create an impact on Amelia Kavan (played by Cara Seymour; Hotel Rwanda, Gangs of New York), his own diffidence and insecurities act as a barrier, keeping him from her, although she is undoubtedly interested in him.
The opening voice over waxes eloquent about Charlie’s copious foibles - bald pate, lack of talent, least enviable body etc. His monozygotic twin Donald, also an aspiring writer, with far less talent yet tons more confidence, chooses to make Charlie the subject of his writing, fascinated with the sibling’s  ‘chalk’ to his ‘cheese’ existence. The bi polar character he writes about has shades of the twins, except that it is a madman and woman, wrapped in one - to Charlie’s utter bewilderment, he wonders how Donald would get them together in the same scene - ‘when one has the other locked in the basement’. However, Donald’s “clichéd psycho-thriller” sells for a million bucks, as the ink starts to flow from Charlie’s end – unconsciously referring to his own life and times  throughout the screenplay.
Charlie’s much thumbed copy of The Orchid Thief, resplendent with yellow post-its and neon highlights, gives him sleepless nights, not only because the gauntlet jeers at him, but also because he fancies himself besotted with Susan, whom he calls to mind in a state of euphoric self gratification.
These three characters are primary to the story line, the shades to their person, their anxieties, their joys and trials are what pepper the script-not the usual sex, action and car chases. However one may try and avoid the pitfall of ‘formula’- it is almost impossible. And when Donald, posing as Charlie meets Susan (the latter gets cold feet, and returns), he feels something is amiss. The two follow Susan to Florida, only to discover Laroche and her in the throes of Ghost Orchid-drug-induced passion.
A violent car chase ensues, with Donald getting killed and Susan being arrested, in case you’re wondering about Laroche - an alligator got to him before the police did. With Donald gone, Charlie picks up the pieces of his life, and writes the screenplay, with Gérard Depardieu in mind.
The film won nominations for Streep, Cage and Cooper at the 56th British Academy Film Awards; while at the 75th Academy Awards, Cooper was awarded in the Best Supporting Actor category. Interestingly, Donald Kaufman is the only fictitious character to have been nominated for an Oscar!

Adaptation - Released in 2002 - Starring Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper

Friday, September 20, 2013

Action thriller - Gone in 60 seconds (released in 2000) (starring Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall)

"I didn't do it for the money. I did it for the cars." (Memphis)

Gone in 60 Seconds is somewhat loosely based on the 1974 film by the same name; the current movie was directed by Dominic Sena (Swordfish), was released in 2000, and stars Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall, among an ensemble cast.
Randall “Memphis” Raines (Nicholas Cage, The Rock, Con Air) is an ex-car thief, who is forced to go back to his thieving ways when the Brit crime czar threatens to kill his brother Kip, when he failed to deliver a consignment of stolen vehicles on time.
How to save his brother ? The condition is to steal 50 cars in 72 hours, with his former partners-in-crime Otto (Robert Duvall, who played roles in Godfather, Speed) and Sway (Angelina Jolie, most famous in Lara Croft and Salt).
Suspicions are fanned when LAPD detectives come to learn of Raines’ return- Memphis must get the cars to the Long Beach Docks. These fifty beauties range from the Aston Martin, the Dodge Viper, Ferrari, to the Pontiac, Lamborghini and Volvo, each of them are code named after girls - Bernadine (Jaguar XJ220), Pamela (Chevy Corvette), Sharon (Pontiac GTO) etc.

All goes according to plan, until Detective Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) throws a spanner in the works and takes out three cars - not one to be deterred, Memphis steals three cars from the police parking lot in retaliation. The Achilles’ Heel is Eleanor, the 1967 Mustang – which Raines has tried to steal on many occasions prior and failed. A Hollywood style chase takes place, which ends with Memphis jumping the car over a jam.
Unfortunately, Memphis reaches 12 minutes late - which almost cost him his life and the Eleanor is ordered to be crushed. When LAPD learns of the actual reasons for Raines return to crime, Castlebeck teams up with him to kill Calitri -who falls to his death. Kip presents Memphis with the keys to an old Mustang, which he bought in exchange for his chopper, finally happy, with his criminal past behind him, Raine and Sway drive into ‘happily-ever-after’.
Despite the impressive cast, the film received mostly poor reviews, the real star of the movie though, was Eleanor, the Mustang - with its replica named Roneale (Eleanor spelt backwards). The movie promises turbo-charged, adrenaline pumping thrills, but delivers only high decibel hype - do consider watching it just for Jolie’s pout, since Cage’s mumbling tone and the alternating screeching of brakes makes for little that could be termed entertaining.
The plot seems jaded, and the rush one awaits at the prospect of fifty machines displaying such brazen horsepower-never really happens. Great cast, fifty awesome cars, and 118 minutes later - the movie is still lame and boring. Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced Days of Thunder, The Rock, Con Air etc, really lost the plot this time. Love your cars, maybe make a really nice movie with cars that tell the story , but do refrain from glorifying car theft, no matter how pressing the reasons are!

Action thriller - Gone in 60 seconds (starring Nicholas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall)