“Adaptation,” Charlie and Donald Kaufman (2002)
As its name suggests, Jonze’s mind-bender is adapted from a novel. Well, sort of. It’s difficult to define. The film was initially supposed to be a cinematic incarnation of Susan Orlean’s 1998 non-fiction novel based on her investigation of John Laroche and a group of Seminoles who were arrested in 1994 for poaching rare orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Things didn’t exactly work out that way, however. What actually resulted was something far beyond expectation. Charlie Kaufman wrote a unique and semi-autobiographical ‘meta-film’ recounting a fictional version of his own experiences writing the novel, in which it is discovered that Orlean and Laroche were secret lovers and the Seminoles wanted the orchid to manufacture drugs. It’s pretty ridiculous, but so good. Kaufman also added a fictitious twin brother, Donald, to the story, who funnily enough is credited (in our real world) as writer and received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Try thinking that through. Nicolas Cage plays both brothers.
“Dead Ringers,” Elliot and Beverly Mantle (1988)
Jeremy Irons appears in a dual role in this David Cronenberg film from 1988 that is loosely based on the novel “Twins,” as well as the story of real-life identical twin gynecologists Stewart and Cyril Marcus, who were found dead in their Manhattan apartment back in 1975, as a result of withdrawal. As is the case with all of Cronenberg’s films, “Dead Ringers” is a ruthless deconstruction of a human being’s sense of self. It’s fair to say that even Freud, had he been alive at the time of the film’s release, would have found the drug and alcohol-induced hallucinations in the film rather unsettling.
Twin filmmakers Michael and Mark Polish co-wrote and star in this film about a pair of conjoined twins who, at the start of the film, embark on a journey to find their birth mother. Roger Ebert expressed a particular affection for the film in the review that he wrote of it back in 1999, calling it one of the best films of the year, praising it for its focus on, as he put it “in regarding particular lives.” “There’s no payoff, no answer, no solution, no resolution, because how can there be?” wrote Ebert. “You are who you are, and life either goes on or it doesn’t.”
That image of the Grady Twins — ghost daughters of the Overlook hotel, played by identical twins Lisa and Louise Burns — is seared into our nightmares “forever and ever and ever.” The pair haunts Danny as he roams the hotel on his tricycle, taunting him to play with them and exposing him to the scene of their brutal murder by axe.
“The Skeleton Twins,” Milo and Maggie (2014)
Craig Johnson’s well-received black comedy touches upon themes of life, death and how deep familial ties can ruin, run and re-inspire. That said, Johnson’s film is much more than your run-of-the-mill drama. Former “Saturday Night Live” stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig star as estranged twins who manage to beat death at pivotal moments in their lives.The film is full of tongue-in-cheek pop cultural self-awareness and pithy one liners. Yet the duo’s on-screen chemistry spreads layers of poignancy over the humor. Hader’s portrayal as a failed actor in tow with Wiig’s desperate housewife in “The Skeleton Twins” is heavy enough to stir emotion but light enough to prevent the glass from tipping over.
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