Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Dir. Michel Gondry

Written by: Charlie Kaufman

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst

 

From its release until about five years ago, I think I would have confidently listed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind among my very favorite films. In fact, I know that there was a time when I attempted to create a concrete “top ten” list of my favorites, and Eternal Sunshine was granted a place in the bottom half, somewhere around number six, I believe. My feelings towards the film have not soured in any meaningful way; quite the contrary, I think that I might actually appreciate it more now in my thirties than I did when I was younger. It’s a great love story, presented in a unique and stylish manner, brimming with real, painful emotion, and speaking to the kind of loss and longing that only the most romantic and the most maudlin of souls can aspire to. When I was younger, I fancied myself that kind of romantic, seeing my own failed and failing romantic relationships through the prism of this film. I was taken by the overwhelming feeling of the movie, the aching way that Gondry visualizes a person trying to mentally compartmentalize their crumbling relationship. I’ve certainly gotten more cynical since then, but the film still has a magical hold on me, although for different reasons. I’m now interested in the ethical quandaries raised by the film’s memory erasure process and still incredibly impressed by the visual flair of the movie and the perfect way that Gondry expresses psychological and mental processes in a visual and spatial manner. While Eternal Sunshine doesn’t hold the vaunted position it once did in my cinematic pantheon, it is still a very good movie, and one that I was glad to revisit for the first time in several years.

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Eternal Sunshine portrays the beginning, middle, end, and rebirth of a passionate, tumultuous relationship between Joel (Carrey) and Clementine (Winslet). Their love story is primarily told through flashbacks experienced by Joel after he undergoes an experimental memory removal process to try and erase Clementine from his brain. After their breakup, Clementine impulsively had her and Joel’s relationship erased from her memory. Upon finding this out, Joel is, understandably, hurt, and vengefully decides to scrub all traces of Clementine from his consciousness. While undergoing the removal process, however, Joel becomes consciously aware of his desire to try to save the memory of Clementine, and, potentially, save their relationship. Joel’s mental avatar starts to fight back against the removal process and tries to secret Clementine away, burying her deeper and deeper in unrelated memories, in a vain attempt to stop her from being erased. However, the process is completed successfully and Joel wakes up the next morning with no recollection of his previous relationship, though he doesn’t appear much better off for it. In the end, it is revealed that Joel and Clementine may be destined for one another as they meet again and rekindle their relationship.

Like Kaufman’s earlier scripts, Eternal Sunshine is something of a maze, inviting the audience to unpeel the film’s layers and daring them to keep up with his script’s twists and turns. Eternal Sunshine retains the emotional sincerity of Kaufman’s film Adaptation. and builds upon that film’s occasional raw emotionality. Joel and Clementine are two of the most relatable protagonists that Kaufman has written because while they are both shown to be deeply flawed people, they lack many of the outward symptoms of anxiety and overarching neuroses that plague more autobiographical Kaufman protagonists. As a result, I think that Eternal Sunshine is likely the Kaufman-scripted film with the most mainstream appeal. Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. were both critically lauded and fared pretty well at the box office, but I’ve noticed that Eternal Sunshine is the Kaufman film that most people I talk to about movies seem to really latch onto. It isn’t especially difficult to find the heart within Kaufman’s more esoteric scripts, but Eternal Sunshine is a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, and I think the open, raw emotionality that Kaufman and Gondry tap into in envisioning Joel’s and Clementine’s lives and relationship rings true with audiences.

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I know that for myself, the emotional impact of Eternal Sunshine was what really attracted me to the film in the first place, and what cemented my affection for it early on. The movie came out right before I graduated from high school, and I can remember when the relationship I was in at the time began to sour that I thought the idea of erasing my significant other seemed like a very attractive proposition. My girlfriend and I were both fans of the movie, but when our relationship started falling apart due to my moving to another state and continuing to allow a fairly serious drinking problem to develop, I personally began to identify with the film more and more. I was experiencing one of my first real relationships starting to crumble and I felt like Joel as he travels through the landscape of his mind while his memories are crumbling around him. I vacillated between wanting to cling to that relationship and that person, and wanting to destroy everything that reminded me of her. It was my first really serious break up and I wasn’t emotionally or socially ready for it. Of course, as time went on, I moved on and developed some coping skills and realized that it is actually possible to bounce back from what seemed at the time to be an all-consuming, emotionally devastating turn of events. Still, though, to this day when I watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind I can’t help but think of that girl and that relationship and the important role that she played in my life when I was transitioning into adulthood. There’s a sentimentality to the movie that I’ll probably never fully shake.

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I still love the groundswell of emotion that a screening of Eternal Sunshine induces, but I’ve also come to really appreciate the movie for other reasons, as well. Chiefly, I’m always enamored with Gondry’s visual style and the unique way he envisions mental processes in a visual, tangible space throughout the film. The editing and camera movements are incredible, but still subtle. Gondry is a master at creating practical effects and manipulating images in-camera, and those skills are on full display as he creates a dynamic world within Joel’s head. Obviously, some of the film’s more memorable visual effects are the instances in which the mise-en-scene begins to become unstable and, often, literally crumbles as Joel’s memories are being eradicated, but I’m more intrigued by the smaller, more nuanced visual tricks that Gondry plays that serve to mimic the overall instability of memory as a neurological process. The film depicts the nature of memory perfectly, as within the memories that Joel traverses through, Gondry uses filters, color schemes, and trick photography to hint at the influence of nostalgia and association on our memory processes, as well as highlighting the sometimes imperfect nature of memory, and the readiness of a person to reflect back on an experience in a more perfect or sentimental manner. The film, like a relationship, is built upon a foundation of several small moments that add up to a meaningful whole, but the audience is constantly reminded that the recollection of those moments may not always be completely accurate. Eternal Sunshine is a movie about love, and it presents a complex, realistic depiction of a relationship, but it’s also very much a movie about memory, and I think the ways that it represents the process of forming and recalling past memories is even more impressive.

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I’ve barely scratched the surface of what makes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a memorable and enjoyable movie to go back to time and time again. The film’s score is beautifully melancholy, matching the mood and timbre of the film. The performances of its deep ensemble cast are all top notch. Jim Carrey stands out as Joel in what, I believe, is his best performance since Man on the Moon. Kate Winslet turns up her automatic charm and gives a reliably solid performance as Clementine. Her turns of phrase in the film always get stuck in my head for some reason. Kirsten Dunst provides depth and a spark in an important supporting role that turns the film on its head in its last few minutes. Of course Gondry’s direction of Kaufman’s superb script is unique and visionary, as I’ve mentioned. The older I get, and the more life experience I gain, the more depth I find in this film. I certainly wasn’t moved to ponder the ethical dilemmas presented by the prospect of memory erasure when I first encountered Eternal Sunshine, but now, as an adult, it’s all I can think about. While it used to release a cascade of emotional feeling in me, the film now leads me to ask heavy philosophical questions, such as “Is it ethical or even sensible to eschew formative life experiences in such a concrete way?” and “Is there an experience or a person who I value so little that I would want to completely remove that person/instance from my life history?” and even, “What right do I have to the contents of my own head?” Even though it may no longer hold a distinction in my personal top ten list of favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine is undeniably a great movie, and I think it has only gotten better with age. It’s one of the films that I was most affected by early in my foray into cinephilia, and one of the few from that time period that I still return to with some regularity, and it still never disappoints.

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Dir. Spike Jonze

Written by: Charlie Kaufman

Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich

 

Being John Malkovich is quite a feat as a debut feature for its writer/director team of Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. At the time of its release Kaufman was a relative unknown, toiling as a television writer, all of whose feature scripts had been rejected. Jonze was best known for his music video work, having directed iconic clips for artists as diverse as The Beastie Boys, Weezer, Björk, and Fatboy Slim. After the release of this film, however, both would become, if not household names, celebrities of the indie film world. Though its off-kilter premise and subtle sense of humor made the film’s release a slow build and prevented it from being a true commercial success, Being John Malkovich achieved near-universal critical acclaim, and more than made its budget back. Eventually the film would be rewarded with Academy Award nominations for both Kaufman and Jonze, as well as a nomination for Catherine Keener for Best Supporting Actress. As I alluded to in my post about Adaptation., Being John Malkovich announced its eccentric creative brain trust as major players in the film world going into the 21st century.

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I remember hearing about the movie when it was released, but I don’t think that I had any interest in seeing it. Being John Malkovich is a weird comedy for adults, and I was only 14 at the time. I didn’t know who John Malkovich was, and I certainly wouldn’t have appreciated or understood the film’s strange sense of humor if I had seen it when it was released. I know this because I didn’t appreciate it when I did see Being John Malkovich for the first time on cable a few years after it came out. I turned the movie on, near the beginning, on Comedy Central, and I can remember thinking to myself, “What the heck kind of weird movie is this?” I’m pretty sure I didn’t watch the whole thing, but if I did, it didn’t make an impact outside of its deep strangeness. At that time, probably 2001 or 2002, I had never been introduced to surrealism, and my tastes in comedy were certainly not geared towards something this strange and cerebral. Being John Malkovich was simply too much of a head trip for me and, to be fair, it probably was for many people on their first encounter.

The film follows Craig Schwartz (Cusack) a skillful but struggling puppeteer who is encouraged to go looking for a job by his wife, Lotte (Diaz), to bring in some income and take his mind off of his failures as an artist. He takes a job as a filing clerk for LesterCorp, which is located on the 7 ½ floor of a New York City skyscraper, home to an array of unusual characters, not least of which is Dr. Lester himself (Orson Beane). While working at LesterCorp, Craig develops a one-sided obsession with his coworker, Maxine (Keener). One day, Craig finds a small, hidden door in the filing office and opens it to reveal a dank, earthen tunnel. After crawling into the tunnel, Craig finds himself inside the consciousness of actor John Malkovich (playing himself), where he experiences the world through Malkovich’s eyes for 15 minutes before being unceremoniously dropped onto the side of the New Jersey turnpike. Craig shares this discovery with Maxine, in hopes of winning her affections by sharing this surreal and one-of-a-kind experience with her, and the two go into business together, selling the opportunity to inhabit Malkovich to sad-sack losers for $200 a trip. While a love trapezoid forms between Craig, Lotte, Maxine, and Malkovich, Craig finds a way to put his skills as a puppeteer into the service of controlling Malkovich’s body so that he can remain inside him indefinitely. And that is all before the movie starts getting really weird.

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I came back to Malkovich after seeing and loving Adaptation. I was a little older, and I was coming into the experience this time with a better handle on Kaufman’s unique voice. So, the pieces all fell into place for me, and I was able to appreciate the film on its own deeply strange, darkly comic terms. While I fell in love with Adaptation.’s lofty narrative ambition, I appreciated Being John Malkovich for its straightforwardness. Even though its plot is completely bananas, with each passing scene only serving to up the ante for strangeness, the film is played straight. Its humor is often deadpan, to the point of absurdity. It lacks the temporal shifts and narrative overlapping of later Kaufman films, opting instead for a linear structure. Characters don’t spend great periods of the film fretting over the metaphysical or cosmic implications of the bizarre scenario in which they’ve found themselves, as does the fictional Charlie Kaufman of Adaptation., they simply react as if finding a portal into a celebrity’s brain behind a filing cabinet is the sort of thing that could happen to any average office drone. That a film like Being John Malkovich could be described as straightforward at all is a testament to the skill of Kaufman and Jonze at crafting a believable, lived-in world, peopled with characters who feel like they could be real. Just like the 7 ½ floor, it seems like Being John Malkovich exists in a parallel world to the real one, where objects and people from the real world are easily recognizable, but the perspective is slightly skewed. The setting is familiar, but the characters’ relationship to it is somehow off.

That skewed perspective is reinforced by the choice of Cusack and Diaz as the film’s leads, as both actors are asked to play against type for their roles. Though often cast in comedies, Cusack was coming off of a run of serious dramas including Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil and The Thin Red Line, and according to reports he discovered Malkovich after asking his agent to find him the “craziest, most un-produceable script” he could find. Craig is a typical Kaufman protagonist, an artist who can’t reconcile his own ambitions and talents with the needs of the day to day world, and Cusack perfectly embodies the depression and malaise that come along with that character. In the film, Craig’s hair is long and greasy, he’s unshaven, and he is shabbily dressed, a far cry from the typically suave, handsome on-screen persona that Cusack is typically associated with. Although he is sometimes associated with the sorts of mopey, lovelorn character that he plays in Being John Malkovich, none of Cusack’s other comedic roles (save for possibly Lane Meyer in Better Off Dead, but we’ll get to that one soon enough) skew this dark. Craig’s attempts to maintain control over his life, the people in it, and the façade that he’s built up using Malkovich as a puppet push him to extremes.

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If Cusack is playing against type, Diaz is asked to make a full on transformation for the role of Lotte. Diaz had burst into the mainstream the year prior playing the titular character in There’s Something About Mary. After that role, she was poised to break out as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and she did, but Being John Malkovich marks a definite detour into fertile territory for her. Rather than capitalize on his lead actress’s fame, Jonze opts instead to make Diaz nearly unrecognizable in the film. Her signature blonde tresses are traded in for a brown, frizzy wig, while her figure is obscured behind lumpy sweatsuits. Everything about Lotte suggests a life of quiet desperation and Diaz’s subtle performance early in the film pull that off well. Her interactions with the chimp, Elijah, who is a part of the menagerie that Lotte has acquired in place of human children, are both comfortingly maternal and heartbreaking at the same time. While she is adept at portraying a woman trapped in a loveless marriage, Diaz’s best work comes later in the film when she reveals her desire for Maxine, and her insistence of returning to Malkovich’s head to experience life as a man. After her experience, Lotte declares herself to be transgender, and she gains satisfaction and self-actualization that she could have never gotten from Craig through her relationship with Maxine. At this point, Diaz’s performance becomes more assertive, and she takes on the role of the detective in the story, trying to uncover the mystery of the portal, rather than just exploit it, as Craig and Maxine do. Though Craig is, ostensibly, the film’s main character, it’s Lotte who does the most changing throughout the film, and in whose character some of the film’s most interesting themes about identity, consciousness, and sexuality are embodied.

Watching the film in 2017, I was struck by how progressive its attitudes towards sex, relationships, and gender identity were for a film that was released in 1999. While it was far from the dark ages, with respect to representation in media, 1999 was still a much less enlightened time for the general public with respects to sexual diversity. I’m sure that watching this movie must have marked the first time I ever encountered the word “transsexual,” though it didn’t register at all then. The idea of a woman entering into a man’s body, experiencing his view of the world, but maintaining a feminine spark that can still be seen through the eyes, as Maxine asserts that Lotte’s can, suggests a gender fluidity rather than a binary relationship. While this is obviously not the way that a transgendered person in the real world exists, the experience does lead to a revelation in Lotte, and a turning point in her character, as she articulates her own chosen identity and decides to actively pursue a happier and more satisfying relationship. Maxine and Lotte’s relationship, which is eventually achieved without a physical male surrogate, is the healthiest one in the film, and their ultimate production of a child and happily-ever-after ending stands in stark contrast to the loveless marriage that Lotte and Craig were both searching for an escape from. Craig, who attempts to be domineering in his relationship with Lotte and manipulative in his relationship with Maxine, is ultimately rejected by both and ends up alone, forced to watch their happiness through the portal, as it connects to the consciousness of Maxine and Lotte’s love child (conceived through Malkovich), Emily.

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The other aspect of the film that interested me on this rewatch was its treatment of celebrity. In 1999, famous actors and other celebrities existed in a world that was out of reach to the common person, accessible only through tabloid newspapers and gossip shows. Now, in an age of pervasive social media, the film’s portal into John Malkovich’s brain has been actualized through celebrities’ Twitter feeds, and Instagram videos. Fans now have a window into their favorite celebrities’ private lives. Being able to actually see through the eyes of, and effectively inhabit, a famous person would still probably be a valued commodity for some, but with access to our idols’ innermost thoughts and feelings on a stream-of-consciousness Twitter feed, it seems less attractive. Want to know what life is like for John Malkovich? Follow his Twitter feed and find out his pet’s favorite Starbucks order.

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Despite all of that, Being John Malkovich never really feels dated. The film is nearly 20 years old, but aside from the obvious advancements in technology, it is set in such a unique world that, rather than reflecting the time in which it was made, it seems to exist just outside of time. The film’s satire of Hollywood culture and the arts scene in general still ring true, and the film’s central theme of longing to break out of one identity and into another is a universal concept. Ultimately, underneath all of its cerebral meta- trappings, Being John Malkovich is a love story, and a story about the lengths to which these characters will go to make themselves feel lovable. If the film’s strange setting is a bit alienating, its emotional core, and the performances of its cast shine through and give the viewer something to cling to. I hadn’t watched this movie in many years, and while it still doesn’t rank among my very favorite Kaufman films, I could understand why it might for others. The building blocks of his future scripts are in place here, and many of the themes that he continues to explore in his films to this day are fleshed out quite well in Being John Malkovich. I’ll probably end up going back to this movie with more frequency than I have in the past.

Adaptation.

Adaptation. (2002)

Dir. Spike Jonze

Written by: Charlie Kaufman & Donald Kaufman (from the novel The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper

 

Charlie Kaufman is, hands down, my favorite screenwriter. He’s also one of the few working screenwriters who has developed into a true auteur, almost immediately establishing his singular, idiosyncratic voice in his first few feature scripts. Being John Malkovich announced the arrival of both Kaufman and director Spike Jonze as major level talents, but it was their second artistic pairing, Adaptation., that revealed the depths of Kaufman’s narrative dexterity. Adaptation. was also the film that introduced me to Kaufman’s cerebral brand of storytelling, and hooked me on his neurotic genius.

Famously born out of Kaufman’s real life writer’s block while attempting to adapt the Susan Orlean novel The Orchid Thief, Adaptation. is, instead, a journey into the writer’s head, exploring the process of adaptation and writing itself as Kaufman inserts himself into his own screenplay. The Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) of Adaptation. is a caricature of the real life Charlie Kaufman, highlighting the screenwriter’s awkwardness and insecurity as he struggles to find an entry point into his film adaptation of The Orchid Thief. Cage also plays Kaufman’s fictional twin brother, Donald, who is also working on a screenplay, and who serves as a foil for the fictional Charlie. The film’s narrative is highly complex, layering the story of Kaufman’s writer’s block with scenes from the novel, which depict New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) meeting, and subsequent obsession with, orchid hunter John Laroche (Chris Cooper). By the film’s end, Kaufman has crafted an ouroboros of a story, self-referential to the point of collapsing in on itself in a final act that is both intentionally clichéd and artificial, and also genuinely cathartic.

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As I mentioned earlier, Adaptation. was the film that really introduced me to Charlie Kaufman. I had seen Being John Malkovich on Comedy Central sometime prior to having seen Adaptation., but it was the latter film that made a real impression on me. I picked it up on DVD (used from Blockbuster, as was my wont in those days) sometime in 2003 during my senior year of high school. I hadn’t seen the film in theaters, but I remembered reading a review in Newsweek magazine that detailed Adaptation’s creative genesis and my interest was piqued. What I experienced when I finally got my hands on a copy of Adaptation. did not disappoint and turned me into a lifelong devotee of the work of Charlie Kaufman.

I had seen plenty of movies that trod in waters of self-reference and that highlighted aspects of their own creation or artificiality, but none quite like this one. Adaptation. was a deep dive into the entire creative process. I had never before seen a film that put its stitches and seams so on display. I don’t remember my first viewing specifically, but I know that the first few times I watched the film, I still couldn’t quite put all the pieces together. The narrative jumps forward and backward in time, layering and stitching together the threads of its story, mixing together real people and fictional characters, all being presented in a highly self-conscious filmic representation. Adaptation. simultaneously draws the viewer in to witness its characters’ most vulnerable moments, while keeping them at a distance through a veil of artificiality. It’s complex, high-minded filmmaking, and it can be a lot to take in.

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With all of the high concept ins and outs of its screenplay, it would be easy for Adaptation. to veer off into the territory of navel gazing, or simply to fall apart under the weight of its own ideas. The thing that makes the film so successful is that it is so rooted in genuine human emotion. The performances of its three leads and Jonze’s warm treatment of their flawed, sometimes unlikable characters, keep the film emotionally resonant. Cage is great, and shows a fairly dynamic range in portraying both the neurotic, misanthropic intellectual, Charlie, and the brash, dopey populist, Donald. Donald so obviously looks up to Charlie, attending screenwriting seminars in an attempt to impress his famous brother. Charlie is embarrassed both by and for his twin’s earnestness. Though they spend the bulk of the film fighting and bickering, in fact much of the film’s humor is derived from Donald’s role as a mirror image to Charlie, the twins are there for each other by the end of the film. The love/hate relationship between the twins is the emotional heart of the film, and its final payoff is devastating. As Donald lies, dying, in the middle of the road, he and Charlie share a moment of true pathos. Charlie cradles his dying twin’s head and sings “Happy Together,” an ongoing motif in the film, in an attempt to keep him from heading in to the light.

Streep and Cooper are both excellent, as well, with Cooper winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Laroche the orchid poacher. He’s responsible for one of the film’s funniest lines. When describing the fleeting nature of his myriad interests throughout life, and in particular his decision to stop collection tropical fish, he says, “…One day I say fuck fish. I renounce fish. I vow never to set foot in that ocean again, that’s how much fuck fish.” Laroche’s finality is reflective of the film’s emotional message that love and happiness can be fleeting, so when you find some of either, enjoy it while it lasts and learn to let it go when it’s gone. Over the course of the film, we see Susan Orlean learn this, as she grows more and more enamored with Laroche. Early in her research for The Orchid Thief, we see Orlean drawn in by Laroche’s charisma, and his dogged pursuit of the ghost orchid, which she becomes obsessed with seeing. Pursuing the ghost orchid and Laroche is a metaphor for Orlean chasing her own moment of happiness and adventure, outside of her loveless marriage and stable New York City academic lifestyle. By the film’s end, she’s found that both the orchid and Laroche’s charm were illusory, and she is left, like Charlie, cradling the dead body of a man she loved.

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As I mentioned earlier, the film’s denouement is intentionally artificial and contrived. The brothers Kaufman follow Orlean to Florida where they discover she and Laroche’s secret stash of drugs, derived from the orchids that he grows in his nursery. When the twins are found out, Laroche and Orlean chase them into the swamps of the Everglades, intending to kill them to cover up the secret of the drugs and of their affair. Through a series of increasingly unlikely and violent twists, Donald and Laroche end up dead, while Orlean and Charlie are left in the swamp trying to pick up the pieces. In the hands of a less capable filmmaker, this narrative left turn could potentially unravel the whole film, and would certainly read as wholly unrealistic. However, Jonze directs the scenes masterfully, creating tension out of a patently absurd situation, and also wringing deep pathos out of both Donald’s death and Orlean’s realization that she is, in Charlie’s words, an “old, lonely, desperate, drug addict.” Even after watching her hunt Charlie and Donald through the swamp, it’s impossible not to feel some pity for Orlean, after having seen how empty the rest of her life is outside of the hunt for the ghost orchid. Jonze chooses to hold the camera on Orlean as she keeps Laroche’s bloody body from sinking into the swamp, letting the audience pick up her realization that everything she’d hung her hopes on was a lie.

I think this blend of the cerebral and the emotional makes Adaptation. Kaufman’s most fully realized work. It probably isn’t my favorite movie that he’s written, but it is likely his best. The script is Kaufman’s most complex, but the emotional resonance of Jonze and the spectacular cast give it a core for the wacky, high concept ideas to revolve around. Both in the film and in the script, Kaufman and his on-screen counterpart break all of the rules of screenwriting in their attempts to capture the essence of The Orchid Thief. While he may never truly unravel the mysteries of the novel, the Charlie Kaufman of the film does learn a profound lesson by the end. By the film’s close, Charlie has gained some perspective and is ready to finish up his screenplay. In a way, the screenplay has been his ghost orchid all along.

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It’s a wonder that a film as bursting at the seams with concepts as Adaptation. can wrap up so neatly, but the final shot is simple and perfect and it never fails to make me smile. With Charlie driving off to put the finishing touches on his screenplay, the camera lingers on a planter full of black-eyed susans as “Happy Together” by the Turtles fades in on the soundtrack. Gradually, the cars in the background begin to speed up as day turns to night in what is now a time lapse shot. The flowers close and then open as the Sun rises again, and the cars continue to speed by in the background. Something about those flowers opening and closing in the sped up time lapse, striving to get closer to the light, has always felt like a perfect ending to this film. It symbolizes the cycle of death and rebirth, the hope that each new day can bring. Adaptation. is a near perfect film, one of the best of the 21st century so far, and I love watching it every time I pull it off the shelf.