Survival of the Fattest: Andrew Hultkrans on Adaptation. (Film)

Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Survival of the Fattest: Andrew Hultkrans on Adaptation. (Film)


IF THIS WERE A CHARLIE KAUFMAN SCRIPT about me writing a review of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman's new film Adaptation, I, Andrew Hultkrans, Artforum critic, would at this very moment be crawling the walls of my barren apartment like Gene Hackman at the end of The Conversation, mentally tracing not merely every single moment of my own life but every single moment of the entire history of the universe that, in evolutionary terms, led up to this all-nighter I'm pulling because I have to write a review of this diabolically unreviewable film called--it's been careening around my brain for weeks like a Super Ball in a Cuisinart, but I'll say it again--Adaptation. By the time I've gotten to this sentence I will have justified hours of procrastination by masturbating to gauzily cliched fantasies of sexual encounters with Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, and that hot journalist from Premiere who sat to my right at the screening and chewed on her pen the whole time. After several more hours of searing self-doubt, I will have beheld at length my pale ass in the mirror, mercilessly scrutinizing it with the chilly professionalism of a board-certified dermatologist, occasionally jiggling a cheek with my index finger for maximum private humiliation. In attempting to bring this paragraph to a close I will have measured my penis with a wooden ruler several times in order to get the most advantageous assessment while scouring the Web for the latest data on the average penile length of the North American male. I will have done all this and much more in order to deliver to you, dear reader, the essence, the core, the man behind the man behind the curtain, the shriveled little homunculus piloting with mischievous glee screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's fat, balding, shamefully inadequate body--that bad marionette, that leaking bag of bones and flesh who once wrote something hailed as "startlingly original" (1999's Being John Malkovich) but whose cremaster has apparently reeled his creative balls so far into his body cavity that he is, pre sently, choking on them. Did I mention that he's bald and fat?

OK, this isn't working. Time to hit the press kit. Adaptation, according to some well-paid copywriter from Columbia Pictures who clearly hasn't suffered like I have, is "a wildly unconventional comedy about a writer who, out of sheer desperation, decides to insert himself into the screenplay he's struggling to adapt. It's a great idea, until reality and fiction begin to overlap in the most unexpected ways." Can you believe the gall? Cavalierly tossing around Silly Putty terms like "reality" and "fiction" as if the entire history of poetics never existed? And then boldly pronouncing--as if she'd just been appointed Big Chief Reality God for a day--that in this film they "begin to overlap"? Like strands of macrame, maybe? Easy for her to say. Sure, it's a cinch to hide behind puff-pastry rhetoric like "wildly unconventional" and "in the most unexpected ways" when you don't have a fucking clue what it is you're writing about. …

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