Action / Comedy / Drama


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August 28, 2011 at 08:47 PM



Tilda Swinton as Valerie Thomas
Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean
Nicolas Cage as Charlie Kaufman / Donald Kaufman
Judy Greer as Alice the Waitress
545.93 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 54 min
P/S 11 / 88

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by ackstasis 9 / 10

"The script I'm starting, it's about flowers. No one's ever done a movie about flowers before."

After the phenomenal success of 'Being John Malkovich' in 1999, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was commissioned to adapt Susan Orlean's non-fiction novel, "The Orchid Thief," for the screen. However, it didn't take long for him to realise that Orlean's book was basically unfilmable, its sprawling and ponderous story lacking any clear structure or coherence. After some months of struggling vainly to write a screenplay from the novel, Kaufman's script inexplicably became the story of a writer's effort to adapt an unadaptable novel. Kaufman's completed script was presented to his financial backers with some trepidation, but they reportedly loved it so much that they decided to abandon the original project and film his screenplay. Spike Jonze, who had also directed "Being John Malkovich," returned to direct "Adaptation," the quirky, twisting, self-referential film that received almost universal critical acclaim. Much like Federico Fellini's classic 1963 film, '8½,' from which Kaufman almost certainly drew inspiration, 'Adaptation' tells the story of its own creation.

Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, the lonely, insecure and socially awkward screenwriter who is hired to adapt "The Orchid Thief," written by Susan Orlean, who is portrayed by Meryl Streep. The novel itself concerns the story of John Laroche (played by Chris Cooper), a smug plant dealer who was arrested in 1994 for poaching rare orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. As Kaufman struggles to write the script, his troubles are compounded by the presence of his twin brother, Donald (also played by Nicolas Cage), who is Charlie's exact opposite: reckless, carefree, over-confident and perhaps even a bit dim. The script for 'Adaptation' darts back and forth between different moments in time, either chronicling Kaufman's screen writing exploits or Orlean's experiences in writing her novel. At several points in the story, more dramatic flashbacks take place: we see Charles Darwin first penning his theories of evolution and adaptation, a brief history of the grim activity of orchid-hunting, and, in one particularly impressive sequence, we are taken back billions of years to the beginning of life, to trace how Charlie Kaufman came to be here today.

Though purportedly based on a true story, the events of the film are highly fictionalised, and the story always treads a fine line with reality, with the audience never certain of whether or not an event is real (in the context of the film) or merely a creation of Charlie's (or even Donald's) imagination. Charlie Kaufman (the true-life writer, not the character) often receives most of the accolades for the film, but it is director Spike Jonze who shared the vision to execute "Adaptation" on screen. His approach to film-making is always original and daring, never tentative of trying something unique for the sake of the film, even if it may offend the tastes of an audience that is unaccustomed to anything other than the mundane clichés of the modern movies that are churned out daily by Hollywood studios. If this wasn't completely obvious after the weird, twisted, fascinating 'Being John Malkovich,' then 'Adaptation' put any lingering doubts to rest. The director, who started his career directing music videos, seems to share a singular understanding with Kaufman the writer, and a mutual agreement on what the film is actually trying to say.

In addition to a clever story, 'Adaptation' contains some of the finest acting of the 2000s, presenting an excellent selection of seasoned talents at the top of their games. In arguably the greatest role(s) of his career, Nicolas Cage is phenomenal as both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, twin brothers whose complete polarity is startlingly evident in the execution of their respective film scripts. Charlie, whilst writing his adaptation, is determined to avoid the usual clichés and construct a film without any conventional plot, to write a movie "simply about flowers." Donald, however, blissfully oblivious to his own unoriginality as a writer, churns out a hackneyed psychological thriller, entitled 'The 3,' in which the serial killer, his female hostage and the cop are the very same person. In an ironic twist of fate, Donald's trite treatment is hailed as a masterpiece, adding further to the inadequacy already being felt by his disillusioned brother. Cage is excellent, and often absolutely hilarious, as both characters, giving each brother a distinct attitude and personality, so that it is possible to tell immediately which is which even though their physical appearance is exactly the same.

Meryl Streep is equally excellent as Susan Orlean, the journalist for "The New Yorker" who researches John Laroche and endeavours to catch a glimpse of the famed and very rare Ghost Orchid, if only to understand what it feels like to be passionate about something. Chris Cooper arguably steals the entire show as the charismatic and enigmatic Laroche, whose tragedy-afflicted life is dedicated to mastering numerous obscure fields (such as orchid-collecting, or fish-collecting), each of which is sporadically cast aside and permanently forgotten as soon as he feels it's time to move on, to "adapt" to another hobby. From four Academy Award nominations, only Cooper walked away with a statue. Notably, Charlie Kaufman's screenplay was also nominated for an Oscar. Since the script was credited to both "Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman," the latter became the only entirely fictional person in history to have been nominated for an Academy Award.

In a nutshell, 'Adaptation' is all about failure. Charlie Kaufman is absolutely determined to write an original script, without cramming in "sex or guns or car chases or characters learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end." However, after he eventually asks Donald to complete the script for him, it descends into exactly that. A visit to a screen-writing seminar by Robert McKee (memorably played by Brian Cox) – who is famous for warning strongly against Deus Ex Machina – is used as exactly that. Charlie Kaufman the character fails miserably in writing his script, but, ironically, Charlie Kaufman the writer succeeds ever so magnificently!

Reviewed by MovieAddict2014 10 / 10

I get it now.

The first time I saw "Adaptation" I expected something else and walked away severely disappointed. As some of you out there who Private Messaged me in regards to my initial review posted on IMDb might already be aware, I originally gave it a rating of 3.5/5 stars, back when I was frequently contributing to the site. I passed on without much thought, considering it a disappointment and leaving my critique for those who cared to read it.

It remains the single comment to have generated the most feedback for me. More than "The Passion of the Christ," and more than yes, even my upsetting review of 2003's "Peter Pan" (which seemed to anger the small die-hard fanbase for the film that lurks on these message boards - by the way, I've had to clarify this sentence by adding "for the film" because someone PM'd me yesterday accusing me of implying I have a fanbase on, I am referring to the film's fanbase, so please hold off on the accusations). I digress. In summary I gave "Adaptation" a negative rating and to my surprise, perhaps because I avoided totally slamming the film, the fans responded to me with kind words rather than harsh ones; conceivably they too had initially taken a dislike to the film? I made a daring move. I bought "Adaptation" on DVD for ten bucks, thinking, "I've got nothing to lose." Plus, the front cover looked cool anyway.

I watched it again (after taking into mind several themes and self-referential layers I had failed to visualize before) and was blown away by the originality and genius of the movie.

My hugest complaint regarding "Adaptation," originally, was its absurd ending -- I felt it was out of place, silly, and totally anti-climactic. Little did I realize this was the point -- to be a parody of the typical Hollywood blockbuster.

There are so many underlying jokes, gags and self-references that the film grows better -- like "Back to the Future" -- on each new viewing. You're always finding new stuff.

I found new respect for Nicolas Cage as an actor after my second viewing of this. I have always liked Cage despite the criticism he receives for being a one-sided actor; here, he proves he's capable of creating two very different human beings out of the same mold. Brilliant, Oscar-worthy stuff.

All in all I got it wrong the first time. "Adaptation" isn't a film that starts out clever and descends into a messy and stupid finish. Well, actually, it is. But that's the point. I didn't get it before. Now I do.

If you disliked this film, my advice? Watch it again. It knows a bit more about itself than you probably do. And read up on the message boards here a bit to get a clearer grasp of what's going on if you're totally clueless.

P.S. I'd like to thank all the people on this site who messaged me in response to my review.

Reviewed by Kris Patmo 10 / 10

Could you be more Original?


Charlie Kaufman might just be the most genius screenwriter (I daren't say ever) at the moment. I mean, trying to adapt a book for a screenplay, not succeeding, yet in the process writing a screenplay about how you can't seem to adapt this book for a screenplay. Oh yeah, and also being helped by your not existing twin brother, and crediting him as co-writer, and being nominatad for an Oscar together with him.

Is anyone following this?

Kaufman seems to be the master of destroying the line between reality and fiction.

I kind of have a hard time saying anything about this movie, because I don't know what to say. You should just go and say it. There's nothing like it.

If you liked Being John Malkovic you wil definitely love this. If you hated BJM you might still like it. It doesn't have the absurdity and surreality of BJM. The story is just incredibly intelligently written.

Even though the movie is about how Kaufman is unable to adapt this book, he actually succeeds in doing just that in the process.

Jesus, I'm still totally stunned.

Jonze does do a very good job once again. But the direction is just outshined by the story...

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