By: Sophie Mirzaian
The title of “The Orchid Thief” is fairly self-explanatory. The title of “Adaptation?” Not so much. If you know Charlie Kaufman, the man behind the script and also the man who wrote himself into his own film, you know his movies are thought-provoking and mind-bending. “Adaptation” does nothing less than revolutionize the way you view film in a not-so-subtle way.
The movie focuses on Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage, who, by the way, gives a fantastic and practically perfect performance) and the struggles he faces while attempting to adapt a book about orchid collector John Laroche (Chris Cooper), which has no plot and no particular conflict called “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). His twin brother, Donald (also Nicolas Cage), follows Charlie’s example and begins scriptwriting. He attends classes taught by a real-life film guru Robert McKee (Brian Cox) and constantly impresses upon Charlie that he should try the classes as well in his attempt to mitigate his writer’s block.
While Charlie is adapting “The Orchid Thief,” Donald, with the guidance of the film guru, ends up writing a ridiculous and nonsensical mystery screenplay called “The Three” about a cop, a serial killer, and a girl who are all supposed to be the same person with a multiple personality disorder, which itself is making a mockery of Hollywood and its absurdity.
“Adaptation” ends as a movie about love, drugs, betrayal and violence put together in the most hilarious and intelligent way possible.
Keep in mind, however, that this film is a comedy and a satire on Hollywood, and you’ll be able to recognize the genius in it. Research it a bit after you’ve finished watching, and you’ll appreciate it even more. Kaufman writes the perfect film by doing everything you’re not supposed to do: putting in voice-over to express the thoughts of the main character, writing himself into his own script, and using deus ex machinas.
“Adaptation” has a tagline which perfectly summarizes the premise of the movie and much of what it stands for: “Charlie Kaufman writes the way he lives- with great difficulty. His twin brother Donald lives the way he writes- with foolish abandon. Susan writes about life, but can’t live it. John’s life is a book, just waiting to be adapted. One story, four lives, million ways it can end.”