Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman and Ben Oliver

I feel like Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation. For those of you unfamiliar with the film’s premise, Charlie Kaufman is a real life screenwriter who wrote the surreal being John Malkovich. Adaptation is a post, post, post, so post in fact it can just about make out the ‘m’ in modern, film. It tells the story of Charlie as himself or at least a parody of himself. He’s finished writing Being John Malkovich and has been approached to write the screenplay for a recently published book, The Orchid Thief.

Charlie Kaufman being a perfectionist when it comes to conveying ‘the truth’ of any written piece finds it increasingly difficult to tackle the screenplay as he desperately tries to veer away from what he sees as the everyday mediocrity of most Hollywood scripts. His brother who has recently become a scriptwriter and has attended ‘screen writers’ conferences, with ‘Ten commandment’ style lists, compounds the problem. As Charlie struggles, trying to make something original, his brother’s paint by numbers script is instantly picked up.

What’s this got to do with me? Well, throughout the film Charlie is constantly struggling with, apart from his own neurosis, bewilderment and downright despair at the seemingly endless success of those who are obviously not very bright. This is likely to resonate with people in a multitude of professions.

It seems like a maxim that the majority of your immediate superiors will be mentally inept in someway. I’m not saying their bad people, just a bit thick. But it’s not just the bosses it can be colleagues of even complete strangers that ignite this feeling. You need only watch any of the various MTV, E-entertainment, and Living channels to see the proof of morons with success in practice.

This might all be thinly disguised jealously though. Like the sense of superiority that Charlie Kaufman feels towards his brother’s cliché writing style or the mainstream taste his agent champions, ultimately Larry learns the biggest lesson from his seemingly stupid brother. It wouldn’t be a compelling film or script if the lesson didn’t come too late.

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