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After the highly original "Being John Malkovich" the combination of director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman once again have come up with a story that you have never seen before. This indulgently self-referencial story follows the efforts of the screenwriter to turn Susan Orlean's book, "The Orchid Thief," into a screenplay. The ride is wild, witty, and fascinating.
Nicholas Cage portrays the screenwriter, Charlie, and his brother, Donald, who also decides to become a screenwriter. As Charlie suffers sweeping insecurity, brother Donald with ease follows simple rules ("principals") and churns out an action-adventure screenplay which wows the agents.
We are constantly being reminded that we are watching the result of the effort we are viewing. The "story" of the book author and what she discovered is interspersed with the story of the screenwriter and his brother. When Charlie finally grasps at a straw and asks Donald to help him finish the screenplay, the story first subtly and then wildly takes a right turn into pulp fiction (the genre, not the movie).
Charlie and Donald are brilliantly portrayed by Nicholas Cage, as fine a job of acting as his Oscar winning effort in Leaving Las Vegas. The characters are always instantly identifiable with no make-up difference at all; it is all in Cage's expression. Remarkable! Meryl Streep portrays the author lovingly. Chris Cooper is brilliant in his portrayal of the flamboyant orchid thief; another high point in his career years after the wonderful "Lone Star." Tilda Swinson is luxury casting for the small role of the agent. Cameo appearances by the "Being John Malkovich" cast (and set) get the story rolling.
The only trouble I had was after the story took its abrupt "Donald-written" right turn; once it sunk in what happened, the actual playing out of this part of the story dragged... but was that the point?
The undeniable point is the Jonze and Kaufman (C) have given us another brilliant invention.
- Robert Berbec