Hired to adapt a plotless, nonfiction book by real-life author Susan Orleans (Meryl Streep) about a fanatic horticulturist (Chris Cooper), neurotic screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) struggles to craft a story out of its deeply layered, esoteric musings without relying on overused Hollywood conventions. Meanwhile, after attending a screenwriting seminar, his jocular twin brother Douglas (Cage again) plows through the writing of his first screenplay, cheerfully embracing the formulaic principles Charlie scorns. This quasi-autobiographical flick from director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is every bit as innovative and puzzling as their wonderfully bizarre _Being John Malkovich_. Exceedingly complex, it challenges viewers by shrewdly utilizing every moviemaking cliché it lampoons, from car chases to romantic entanglements to life-altering epiphanies. Consequently, watching it takes a little work, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
Kinsey Scale: 3 (Streep played Woody Allen’s lesbian ex-wife in Manhattan. In American Beauty, Cooper’s macho military man wrestled with repressed homo desires. Seen here as a movie producer, Tilda Swinton played a mother fiercely protective of her gay son in The Deep End and the cross-dressing title character in Orlando. Brian Cox, appearing as real-life screenwriting guru Robert McKee, was a gay pedophile in L.I.E. and homosexual serial killer Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter. Jonze and Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich featured a lesbian flirtation between Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener, who has a cameo role here.)
(Appeared in Q Syndicate)