Twisty brilliance from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, the team who created Being John Malkovich. Nicolas Cage returns to form with a funny, sad, and sneaky performance as Charlie Kaufman, a self-loathing screenwriter who has been hired to adapt Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. Frustrated and infatuated by Orlean’s elegant but plotless book (which is largely a rumination on flowers), Kaufman begins to write a screenplay about himself trying to write a screenplay about The Orchid Thief, all the…
Twisty brilliance from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, the team who created Being John Malkovich. Nicolas Cage returns to form with a funny, sad, and sneaky performance as Charlie Kaufman, a self-loathing screenwriter who has been hired to adapt Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. Frustrated and infatuated by Orlean’s elegant but plotless book (which is largely a rumination on flowers), Kaufman begins to write a screenplay about himself trying to write a screenplay about The Orchid Thief, all the while hounded by his twin brother Donald (Cage again), who’s cheerfully writing the kind of formulaic action movie that Kaufman finds repugnant. By its conclusion, Adaptation is the most artistically ambitious, most utterly cynical, and most uncategorizable movie ever to come out of Hollywood. Also starring Meryl Streep (as Susan Orlean), Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, and Brian Cox; superb performances throughout. —Bret Fetzer
Barnes and Noble
Going through the looking glass and into the kaleidoscope, Adaptation defies easy description. A movie within a movie about the creation of a movie, it is an exhilarating mix of reality, fantasy, and dark humor, filled with satire and sharp performances. The concept revolves around screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), who battles writer’s block while trying to adapt the book The Orchid Thief by New Yorker scribe Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). The story mirrors that of the real-life Charlie Kaufman, who struggled mightily to adapt Orlean’s novel about John Laroche (played by Chris Cooper), who poaches rare orchids in Florida’s Everglades. Kaufman (the character) has an identical twin brother, Donald (also played by Cage), a freeloading lunk who inflates Charlie’s frustrations, fears, and delusions by taking a quickie screenwriting course with guru Robert McKee (Brian Cox) and selling a serial-killer flick for a cool million at the height of Charlie’s despair. Playing with the boundaries of fact and fiction, the film intersperses bits of The Orchid Thief adaptation with Charlie’s other struggles—namely, women and the world of moviemaking. The result blurs everyone’s perceptions of what’s real, what’s make-believe, and…what’s the difference, anyway? Few movies have been this provocative and playful since 1999’s Being John Malkovich, which Kaufman wrote and brought to the screen with Adaptation director Spike Jonze. Fans of that gem will exult as Malkovich, Jonze, and Malkovich stars John Cusack and Catherine Keener show up for cleverly interwoven cameos. Adaptation’s three lead performers, each Academy Award nominated, make this tricky material work brilliantly: Streep exercises her penchant for humor; Cage recaptures the offbeat appeal he mastered in such films as Raising Arizona; and Cooper’s turn is simply revelatory, earning him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. A bold and sly homage to the pains of the creative process, Adaptation proves that the real Kaufman is among the screen’s most creative processors. Peter Marchand
Adaptation reunites Carter Burwell (of Coen brothers renown) with director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman, the creative team behind 1999’s Being John Malkovich, with equally noteworthy results. Although selections like “The Unexpressed Expressed” lean heavily on romantic strings, Burwell’s harmonic progressions rarely culminate in obvious resolutions, mirroring the frustration of the film’s protagonist, a screenwriter struggling to translate a nonfiction work into a workable screenplay. Less predictable timbres propel other cuts—”The Evolution of…
In Susan Orlean’s mesmerizing true story of beauty and obsession is John Laroche, a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of the world’s most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native American activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a tale that is strange, compelling, and hilarious.
New Yorker writer Susan Orlean followed Laroche through swamps and into the eccentric world of Florida’s orchid…[more]