Retro: The Unquiet American


Spike Jonze
USA 2002
115 min

Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze, the writer and director of <![CDATA[<i>]]>Being John Malkovich<![CDATA[</i>]]>, have teamed up on another zany comedy, approximately two-thirds as good. Kaufman shares screenplay credit with an imaginary twin brother named Donald, echoing the story – in which a writer named Charlie Kaufman has a twin brother named Donald. (Both are played by Nicolas Cage.) The real-life Kaufman, assigned to adapt a real-life nonfiction book he admired but couldn’t figure out how to crack, Susan Orlean’s “The Orchid Thief”, decided to write about his dilemma, alternating bits of the book with a comic saga about writer’s block; to foreground his own schizophrenic split between suffering artist and ­amiable Hollywood hack, he invented a twin for
the latter role. Meryl Streep, who tends to shine in ­comedies, plays Orlean, and Chris Cooper does an elaborate character turn as her subject, an eccentric flower poacher in the Florida Everglades. This is like a Ferris wheel – it’s enjoyable but it goes nowhere, which I guess is how Ferris wheel rides are supposed to be. With Tilda Swinton and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

  • Meryl Streep - Linda
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal - Clara
  • Nicolas Cage - Joe
  • Stephen Tobolowsky - Rick Lawler
  • Chris Cooper
  • Curtis Hanson
  • David O. Russell
Jonathan Demme, Vincent Landay, Edward Saxon
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