Film4: Sunday 22 November, 1.15am
Despite all the recent evidence to the contrary, Nicolas Cage really can act. He’s brilliant here. Twice. Because, in a bizarre comedy from the creators of Being John Malkovich, this is the greatest twin brother double act since Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers. Meryl Streep plays real-life New York journalist Susan Orlean, whose bestselling profile of an exotic plant expert (played with Oscar-winning panache by Chris Cooper) provides the jumping off point for an imaginative leap onto the Hollywood conveyor belt by way of Florida’s Fakahatchee swamp.
Cage plays both screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (who wrote the script for Adaptation by way of explaining his failure to actually adapt Orlean’s book) and Kaufman’s fictitious twin Donald (to whom the film is playfully dedicated). Blocked Barton Fink-like on a script that’s all false starts and wrong approaches, Charlie’s a nervous wreck, sweating profusely and too timid to talk to the woman who wrote the book. Donald’s carefree and confident, bashing out his own screenplay, a serial killer thriller called The Three, in which cop, killer and victim are all the same person.
Desperate, Charlie sits in on a seminar from a man he’s openly scorned, screenwriting guru Robert McKee (Brian Cox, typically ebullient). “Find an ending,” says McKee. “Wow them, and you’ve got a hit.” Sex and guns and drugs and a car chase, kind of, somehow work themselves into a story about the glory of flora and fauna. Cage is very funny in both guises and this peculiar film is in a genre all its own, a Spike Jonze jigsaw puzzle that finds laugh-aloud humour in the creative process.