In Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman tells McKee that the story is about disappointment. He is describing the story of The Orchid Theif but in reality he is describing the story of Adaptation. Charlie, described by himself as a fat, balding loser who has lived his whole life paralyzed, wants to write a screenplay without conflict that is true to the book he is adapting. McKee, of course tells him, “that’s not a movie.” And so a movie that for two thirds of its length has focused on character development without concerning itself with action sequences ends with a botonist and a staff writer for the New Yorker attempting to murder identical twins in a Florida swamp including a car crash (an alligator attack thrown in for good measure). Susan Orlean does not find renewed love or the passion for something she was seeking, Donald’s fleeting success as a thriller writer is destroyed, and Charlie’s attempt to write an adaptation of book that is true to the original fails and resorts to the typical Hollywood cliches he so desperately wants to aviod. Even his attempt at learning from his dead brother’s example and taking a chance at love is met with disappointment when Amelia tells him she is with somebody.
So disappointment is the univeral theme shared by all of the characters in the story and the movie itself? Is this metaphor for adaptation true? Is it really impossible to write a movie without conflicts and, voice overs, and action sequences that doesn’t bore the viewer to tears? Certainly, like S usan Orlean, there are many writers who would like to murder the screen writers who adapt their works but are disappointed just as Orleans is in her attempt. Until the plot forces its narrative driven “wow of an ending” as McKee calls it, the movie was successfully generating interest in developing sympathetic characters. Charlie’s frustration with deadlines, his inability to conquer his personal demons, Orleans becoming disillusioned with her subject and Laroche’s philosophical introspection succumbing to the pursuit of internet pornography dollars had held my interest and provoked thought. So why exactly did Jonze decide to disappoint with a typical Hollywood ending that was contrary to the nature of the rest of the film? Is he also throwing in the towel like Charlie Kaufman and admitting that all films adapted from literature disappoint?