Dan Friedman
What does Charles Kaufman think he's doing?, p. 4

Although having a better excuse (namely parodying 'The Hollywood Ending'), I find this ending every bit as unconvincing as Kaufman's other endings. Yet it does show the paradox of wish fulfilment. The ending is Donald's -- but Donald has to die for it to work. (Although Donald didn't really die -- isn't it a form of wish fulfilment for Kaufman to be portrayed by the Oscar-winning, Presley-wedding, movie-star-nephew-of-Francis-Ford-Coppola, Nicolas Cage?) Charlie wants a neat ending, but the neat ending is a form of escapist fantasy. A 'responsible' depiction of life - even natural, evolutionary life - does not include a neat ending.

In writing a review of an earlier Kaufman film, Human Nature, critic Rod Armstrong (at reel.com) suggests that "the movie's trite ultimate point" is "that everyone should be themselves." And yet the point Kaufman's work in general is anything but the trite "be yourself." It is that there is no clear distinction between being oneself and being someone else -- that escapism is not really an escape from life as one of the constitutive aspects of it. John Cusack needs to be John Malkovich, Barris needs his fantasy, Kaufman needs his fantastic ending. And we need to go to the movies to watch it all unfold.

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Image: Scenario Magazine

Dan Friedman is a PhD candidate at Yale University.

For a full list of previous film columns, please visit the archive.

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February 2003

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josh visits the
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