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A.J.'s Rating:  5 Rare Orchids
Directed By:  Spike Jonze
Written By:  Susan Orlean (book) / Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman (screenplay)
Starring:  Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Rated:  R (language, sexuality, drug use, violent images)
Running Time:  116 Min.
   What is Adaptation about?  Well, it's about a writer.  No, wait, it's about a movie screenplay.  It might just be about a flower.  Actually, it's about something else altogether, but I'm not ready to tell you what.  I can say that it has much to do with Charlie Kaufman.  Not the Charlie Kaufman who wrote the screenplay for this movie, but the Charlie Kaufman in this movie who writes the screenplay for a movie about writing the screenplay for a movie based on a book called 'The Orchid Thief'.  So what if they are the same guy?  Anyway, Charlie, who we find also wrote the screenplay for Being John Malkovich, now finds himself tortured over adapting 'The Orchid Thief' for the silver screen.  He's suffering from neurosis and writer's block, as well as an extreme case of internal monologue.  In other words, he can't think of anything good to write, but has plenty of awful things to say to himself!  Okay, I know you're now saying to yourself, 'this sounds like a really weird movie'.  Very perceptive, what gave it away?
    Charlie Kaufman (you'll have to decide which one) is a clever writer.  Quite clever indeed.  In fact, everything about Adaptation just screams, 'Hey world, look how clever Charlie Kaufman is!!!'  This would sound unbelievably conceited if it were not so true.  Kaufman and director Spike Jonze have created another wildly inventive observation of the human condition, equal in depth to Being John Malkovich, and equally hilarious as well.  While the theme that runs through Malkovich is one of manipulation, the theme that Adaptation tackles is one of perception.  And the only manipulation Kaufman now seems concerned with is that of the audience.  As stated earlier, Charlie Kaufman is one clever S.O.B.  Sure, he's having us all on, but at least he does so in a good-natured, fun way!  (otherwise, I'd think he was a pompous jerk.)
   As far as acting is concerned, I thought Nicolas Cage and Nicolas Cage were great.  The chemistry between them was fantastic!  The Cages play Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother, Donald.  Also giving a fine performance is Chris Cooper, who plays John LaRoche, the unlikely leading man of 'The Orchid Thief'.  And, as if that were not enough, some actress by the name of Meryl Streep appears in this film, too!  She plays Susan Orlean, the author of the book poor Charlie is attempting to adapt. 
    So, even if you hated Being John Malkovich, or don't give a flying hoot about movies with deep, insightful, thought-provoking content, you still may enjoy Adaptation.  It's a wonderfully bizarre and shockingly funny film. 
    Lastly, while Adaptation will most likely be up for a few Best Screenplay awards this year, don't count on Charlie and Donald to both show up for the festivities.  (they're seldom seen together.)
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Review published
December 30, 2002
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