Director Spike Jonze
Written by Charlie and Donald Kaufman
Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Jim Beaver, Cara Seymour, Judy Greer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ron Livingston, Brian Cox.
Charlie Kaufman (Cage) is a highly anxious, socially awkward screenwriter, currently having his first screenplay Being John Malkovich filmed. He lives with his much more confident twin brother Donald (also Cage), who dreams of being a screenwriter himself. When Charlie is hired to write a film adaptation of the book The Orchard Thief by Susan Orlean (Streep) he gets severe writers block as he tries to find a way to get the book into a movie, but finds the subject matter ‘un-filmable’. As he stumbles further into writers block, he becomes obsessed with Orlean and begins to fantasise about her, and then stalk her. Meanwhile Susan reconnects with the radical horticulturalist John LaRoche (Cooper) and is reminiscent of the time three years ago as she wrote the book during her in depth interviews with, and her affair with him, as they hunted the rare Ghost Orchid in order to harvest and sell.
Ultra Meta film, by the brilliant writer Charlie Kaufman – is loosely based on the time HE was hired to write a screenplay of The Orchard Thief by Susan Orlean. It also adds several of the cast of Being John Malkovich during the making of this film, which was also directed by Jonze.
The performances are flawless, and Cage pulled not one but two amazing performances as the twin Kaufman brothers (the film is written by Charlie and “Donald”). “Both” Charlie and “Donald” were nominated for an Academy Award for “their” work. The three lead actors, Cage, Streep and Cooper all were nominated for their performances, with the latter taking home Best Supporting Actor for his performance as LaRoche.
The genre itself is not one of my favourites, but I respect the ingenuity that Kaufman possesses. He is one of the most mature writers in Hollywood, and his ability to be self referential as well as take aim at his own work (Cox’s character who dislikes self narration within films, where this film is full with it.
I wasn’t entirely the biggest fan of the third act, and Charlie’s almost Pyrrhic victory. Some of the characters actions feel completely out of place, and the genre completely shifts gears. This is the only real flaw I have within the movie, and because of this I finished this film on a sour note. It is still a great film and the performances from the three leads are very good, especially Cage and Cooper.