I disagree. One of the main themes of the movie is the relationship between the constructed reality of film and the “real” reality in which we live every day. the point is that the constructed reality of film creates false expectations of real life for the viewer. Charlie says he wants to write a movie about “flowers” which preserves the loose, talky feel of the Orlean book. He does not want to write a movie where people “undergo life changing experiences,” because that’s not how things happen in real life. McKee, acting as the voice of Hollywood (because so many of Hollywood writers use his theories) disagrees loudly and says that such a movie would be a waste of time. He says (in his introductary lecture) that the principals he espouses are the result of years and years of experience chalked up by countless Hollywood writers, and that, no matter what you may think abou them, they work. Airing the debate is the point of the McKee sub plot.
Despite what Charlie WANTS to do, he finds himself unable to accomplish it and enlists the help of his McKee-worshiping brother to finish the movie. The ending hits all of the cliches that Charlie despises and McKee warned against because the character that wrote it is a hack. But in some perverse way, it IS kind of following McKee’s maxims–he says to be sure that “action flows from character, and that the problems the characters face are solved from within themselves.” The problem the characters face here is finishing the * Orchid Thief * portion of the script. The character that solves the problem does so in a way that is consistant with his character–he writes a hack ending which does NOT conform with McKee’s philosphy of screenwriting because the Donald, being a little dense, does not really understand it.
The movie posits that the process of adapting works for the screen as the process is set up now (with agents, directors, producers, and writers) will inevitably distort and ruin the work. Lo and behold, despite the best efforts and intentions of Charlie, that’s exactly what happens to * The Orchid Thief *. The ending, while admittly a gimmick, is not merely “for it’s own sake”, but works within the framework of the movie to advance the themes. Plus it’s funny.
Or at least I thought it was funny. I saw it on Saturday afternoon as part of a packed house. There was a group of people sitting in front of me who could not get out of the theater fast enough when it was clear that the movie was over. They were gone before the credits rolled. A guy sitting close to me who I talked to after the movie said he thought a woman sitting next to him started crying when Donald died. I was laughing. The way the ending is made pushes all of those Hollywood buttons that have been ingrained in the moviegoer for years and years, and it does so pretty effectively. It’s kind of like some Frank Zappa music–the music is meant ironically, but it is so technically proficient that it’s hard to tell if he’s kidding or not. I think the ending is going to turn a lot of viewers off. They’re going to leave the theater feeling like they’ve tricked or something–like the movie was laughing AT them, not with them. I do not believe that was the filmmaker’s intent–IMHO, they were trying to point out the crappy cliches to the audience and thus put a spear in those old whales once and for all–but I think that’s what some people are going to think. Lots of people hated Andy Kaufman for the same reason.