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Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is commissioned to adapt Susan Orleans’ (Meryl Streep) meandering non-fiction book, The Orchid Thief, to a screenplay, but he is overcome by his insecurities and can't get started. He asks his sweet but simple, identical twin brother Donald (Nicolas Cage) for help, who suggests he enrols in industry-famous Robert McKee's (Brian Cox) screenwriting workshop. In the meantime, Susan ventures on a journey of self-discovery with the eccentric and troubled subject of her book, orchid lover John Laroche (Chris Cooper).

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Adapted to the DVD with its rich images digitally captured and flawless sound, Adaptation is a movie for movie lovers and is worth shelving for the sake of the film alone.

Adaptation is without doubt one of the edgiest movies of recent years, and the less you know about it the better. Stop reading now, unless you’ve seen the film. Not only does the story follow the crumpled life of Charlie Kaufman, script writer, as he attempts a book adaptation, it displays a crumpled Nicolas Cage whose adaptation into Charlie Kaufman (and his twin borther) is no less extraordinary than the story itself. He morphs into the bald, overweight and self-loathing Charlie like a dry page getting wet. Cage’s performance suspends disbelief for the entire film. And it’s a mesmerising, gritty film of contemporary sensibilities. 

Written like a screech of writer’s pain from the bowels of the filmmaking beast, Adaptation does not set out to ridicule Hollywood, though, and is more concerned with the private damnation of the creative struggle – and all its quirky, multi-headed vipers. Tantalisingly combining elements that suggest documentary and drama all at once, the film keeps us off balance. But Cage is not alone: Chris Cooper is sensational as the toothless orchid thief, and Meryl Streep does her best work here. The settings, from swamp to seedy rooms all reek of reality – and it occurs to me that this is perhaps the closest and best we have to ‘reality movie’ – and it’s a galaxy ahead of so called ‘reality television’. Made with bravado and suffused with anti-vanity, Adaptation will scar your ideas of script writing like the thorn of big, wild, red rose. 

In keeping with the film’s darkly comic sensibilities, this Australian DVD release is decorated with just one extra item, the funky, dryly funny 2 minute Behind the scenes in the swamp. 

Published June 12, 2003

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SUSAN ORLEAN INTERVIEW (author of The Orchid Thief, on which Adaptation is based) by Andrew L. Urban

(US - 2002

CAST: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Cara Seymour, Rheagan Wallace

DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: June 25, 2003

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