Adaptation (2002)


Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Adaptation is definitely one of the year's best films.  I don't mean one of Alan's best.  I mean it's really one of the year's best films.  There are no aliens, explosions, gunfights, or spaceships but it is a genuine quality movie masterpiece.  I will be surprised if it's not nominated for best picture but I won't really be shocked when it doesn't win.  It is a Spike Jonze picture after all,  written by Charlie Kaufman.  That should be enough information for you to realize it's going to be a wonderfully experimental film that will be misunderstood, hailed as genius, and set aside due to the fact that it cannot be neatly categorized.  Is it a comedy?  drama?  fact?  fiction? documentary?  As Americans we cannot abide that which does not fit into one definitive genre.  And therefore I predict Adaptation will soon be relegated to the "cult" section of the video store where it will share a shelf with Being John Malkovich and the entire works of David Lynch.

Adaptation is sort of the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's attempt to adapt Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief, which is the story of John Laroche, a Florida man obsessed by orchids.  But it's more than that, and at the same time less.  It's watching actors play real people who are involved with other real and fictional people in fictional and real situations that take place in and out of the reality of the real world.

Nicolas Cage is awesome playing the dual roles of Charlie and Donald Kaufman.  I would say he should win the Oscar but I actually think Daniel Day-Lewis should (and will) win for Gangs of New York.  But if they were giving out two best actor awards I would definitely give the second one to Cage.  Meryl Streep is perfect, as always, in the role of The Orchid Thief author Susan Orlean.  Chris Cooper is really good as Laroche.  His character is probably the most fun to watch.  

The real Charlie Kaufman ,if there even is such a person, is the important one to consider.  Not just the versions of him that Cage plays on the screen, but the actual person who wrote this incredible script for a movie that could not have translated well when it was pitched to the suits at the studio.  Kaufman is either ahead of his time or the first of his kind.  Besides Malkovich and the recently released Chuck Barris film, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, his most famous writing to date was done on the critically acclaimed but short-lived 1990-1992 sitcom, Get a Life.  This was a great show and equally misunderstood by the dimwitted American masses as well.  

I loved Adaptation.  I even liked the end or the film which is where many other critics have lost interest.  It is an excellent follow-up to the equally excellent Malkovich.  I truly hope this Kaufman / Jonze collaboration endures.