Adaptation. (2002)

[And we’ve entered the Viennale programme. If I continue in this manner, I’ll probably be up to date by the end of this year…]

Adaptation. is Spike Jonze‘ movie adaptation based on Susan Orlean‘s book The Orchid Thief. The script was written by Charlie Kaufman and it stars Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, (in a very small role) Tilda Swinton and (in an even smaller role) Maggie Gyllenhaal.

At the end of the shoot of Being John Malkovich, Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is trying to get his new project going – an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) book The Orchid Thief. The Orchid Thief is about John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a strangely charismatic florist/thief/survivalist. Just as Susan is pulled into Laroche’s story, the only way Charlie seems to get things going is by writing himself into the story. Especially since his twin brother Donald (Nicolas Cage) decided he wants to be a screenwriter as well and does so with more easy and apparently more success than Charlie.

If that plot summary sounds a little confusing, I’m sorry. But I think that every summary of this film will end in confusion – though the movie itself is rather easy to follow. If you can handle self-referentialism. [If you feed on it, like I do, you’re going to love this movie.] In any case, Adaptation. is very funny, well-played and weird. In a very good way.

Charlie Kaufman is very hard on himself. He portrays himself as narcissistic, vain, a snob and generally unsympathetic. But he needs to do that to make this movie work. [And who’s to say that he isn’t actually like that?] If he painted his characterself in a better light, we’d probably all be assuming that he’s glorifying himself and wouldn’t want to watch this film.

Nicolas Cage shows that he can actually act.* [Sometimes you really have to wonder.] That’s nice to see for a change. Meryl Streep is great, as usual. But I thought that the actual show stealer was Chris Cooper. His Laroche is everything the description says he should be and he pulls it off perfectly.

Spike Jonze does a wonderful job directing Adaptation., capturing everything with a perfect eye for framing and pacing. Starting with the orchids and ending with the characters, you get the sense to really know them.

Probably the most outstanding thing about it is the passion: Laroche’s passion for whatever catches his fancy at that particular moment. Susan’s growing passion for orchids and Laroche. Donald’s passion about writing. Charlie’s passion about himself… It all culminates into a movie that feels like it was a work of love from everyone attached to it. And that’s beautiful to see. [Does that sound esoteric? Because I sure as hell don’t mean it to.]

Anyway, you should really catch it, if you can and haven’t already. Especially if you like meta-fiction.


Nicolas Cage has said that during the filming of this movie, he ignored all of his acting instincts and played the part of Charlie Kaufman exactly as director Spike Jonze asked him to. He then received an Academy Award nomination for it.


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