Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman struggles to adapt The Orchid Thief
to film, and starts to take desperate measures to finish his script.
Directed by Spike Jonze
Written by Charlie Kaufman
Starring Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cara Seymour, Ron Livingston, Brian Cox
Based on the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper)
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Nicolas Cage), Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Adapted Screenplay
I always thought Barton Fink was the best movie ever written about writer's block. But I never knew about Adaptation. As long as it's been around, I never really knew what this film was about. I knew Cage played twins, but I thought one of them was imaginary, at least in the context of the film. I knew Chris Cooper won an Oscar for it, and I knew it came from the complex mind of Charlie Kaufman, who I've had mixed thoughts about. I loved Being John Malkovich, but I hated Synecdoche, New York and I'm Thinking of Ending Things. Kaufman only seems to work flawlessly when paired with Spike Jonze, because Adaptation is one of the craziest, weirdest, and most original films I've ever watched. And I enjoyed every second of it.
Nicolas Cage excels as twin brothers Charlie and Donald Kaufman, the latter of whom is fictitious. Charlie is insecure, out of shape, and desperate to be loved, and he's just been hired to adapt the book The Orchid Thief by New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean (Streep). In Charlie's quest to adapt this book, he hits many walls, imagines Susan's journey with orchid expert John Laroche (Cooper), and ultimately starts writing about the only thing he truly knows: Himself. Along the way, Donald hits his stride as a horror writer and seems to be everything Charlie wishes he could be. The ending goes wildly off the rails, but it makes sense if you consider that the first half is Charlie's movie and the second half is Donald's. Plus, the performances are amazing and the concept is so meta and constantly eating itself alive. It's brilliant.
Adaptation is a wild film that is not at all what you expect. It's the ultimate expression of writer's block, manifested as a twin brother, a drug scheme, and a screenwriting class taught by Brian Cox. There are scenes in the film that take place on the set of Being John Malkovich, with Malkovich, John Cusack, and Catherine Keener making cameos. What in the almighty hell is this movie? It's impossible to describe to anybody who hasn't seen it, but it should be seen by anyone with an interest in film, screenwriting, or mental illness. One of the true gems of the 2000's.