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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.26%
Average: 6.3%
Pretty Bad: 4.72%
Total Crap: 3.15%

7 reviews, 85 user ratings

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by Collin Souter

"The Nicholas Cage we once knew and loved IS BACK!!!"
5 stars

Remember that scene in Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” where the chimpanzee had to try and find inner courage? The movie took a daring flashback to show the chimp’s inner psyche, to let us in on what cripples him (or was it a her? I don’t remember.) Suddenly, we left the confines of John Cusack’s and Cameron Diaz’s apartment only to be thrown into the jungles of Africa where the chimp suffered severe trauma as a result of seeing his/her family captured while the chimp sat helpless. Why did this scene exist? What does it have to do with anything? Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman instead asked ‘why not?’ Out of nowhere, a secondary character—maybe not even that—had been given one of the greatest gifts a screenwriter can give to his/her creation: Honest to goodness, sincere character development. And it only took 30 seconds.

“Adaptation,” also from writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, at first feels like a feature-length version of that very scenario. The whole of “Adaptation,” however, defies description and to try and sum up the movie with a single review seems pointless. But film criticism, among other things, is based on the ethic that art needs to be discussed and the more voices to throw into the mix, the better. People will be talking about this movie for years. Nothing I say about “Adaptation” will prepare you for it. The movie throws things at you that you must put together, but it will all make sense in the end.

So, let’s give this a try. “Adaptation” tells the story of Charlie Kaufman. Yes, the screenwriter, and if you think that a screenwriter writing about himself without even changing the names to protect the innocent seems too self-indulgent to be taken seriously, be aware ahead of time that the movie addresses this. Normally, you would be right in your assumption. I don’t think of this as self-indulgence. This is just a screenwriter cutting through the BS. (How weird is it that the next movie I would watch on the same day would be “Antwone Fisher,” a movie about Antwone Fisher, written by Antwone Fisher?)

Okay, so this story is about Charlie Kaufman, played by Nicholas Cage, trying to write a screenplay adaptation of a book titled The Orchid Thief written by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). Charlie can’t hack it. He doesn’t want to write a straightforward narrative Hollywood piece, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to be weird either, like his last movie “Being John Malkovich.” Being socially inept, he can’t bring himself to meet the author face-to-face. God forbid he should have to attend one of those wretched screenwriting seminars, highly recommended to him by his slightly dense screenwriter-wannabe brother, Donald, also played by Nicholas Cage.

The movie also tells a parallel story about Susan and her quest to find what makes this story (if you can call it that) tick in the first place. She hooks up with John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a seemingly simple orchid enthusiast who continues to reveal layers of his personality to the point where we feel half-way through the movie that we’ve been had. He is quite the interesting character, full of sound and fury, signifying plenty. And he loves orchids. Susan finds this character as compelling as we do, and their search for orchids, as well as Kaufman’s search for that spark that will ignite the great American screenplay, is one of the most original and daring parallel storylines in many years.

Now, please don’t feel as though I just spoiled the movie for you. Again, that would be next to impossible and I wouldn’t have the room necessary on this page to attempt such a feat. I have basically given you the simplest possible outline. As for the rest, you’re on your own. While the movie doesn’t get quite as caught up in its own eccentricities or its densely-layered plot as “Being John Malkovich,” it is just as engaging, if not more so, and thought-provoking.

And I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to have Nicholas Cage back. The Nicholas Cage I knew and loved, the “Vampires Kiss”-“Raising Arizona”-“Moonstruck”-“Peggy Sue Got Married”-“Wild At Heart” Nicholas Cage. The one who made weird choices with his approach to character, the one who didn’t care about how buff he looked for the action scenes, the one who would play the high school sweetheart, but with a strange nasally drone. Cage is back and I couldn’t be happier, and he hasn’t been this good since, well, “Leaving Las Vegas,” which is also good Cage.

The same goes for Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper, who together ignite some strange chemistry, the likes of which you don’t see much. On one hand, it’s an old story where an upper-class New York intellectual falls for a backwoods, dirty hick, but the execution and the way in which Kaufman (the screenwriter, not the character) gives the romance its drive is anything but ordinary.

I realize the word “strange” has been popping up in this review quite often. “Adaptation” is strange, but in the best possible way. It will put off people who may be looking for entertainment along the lines of that Greek wedding movie. It is a movie to chew on and to see multiple times. The credits just ended an hour ago as I write this and I feel another viewing is in order, not because I missed something, but because it’s that good of a movie. Film critics and reviewers have to sit through a lot of junk and a movie as engrossing and hilarious as “Adaptation” tends to stick out from the flower bed, like a wild orchid coming into bloom amidst ordinary rows of store-bought petunias. Indeed, we have come quite a long way from the chimp.

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originally posted: 12/20/02 00:18:14
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User Comments

12/10/15 Anne "if they make fun of me it's their problem" 4 stars
2/04/12 GC WOW Hollywood does still have some original ideas...great movie! 4 stars
11/01/11 Nathan Adam Johnson Loved it. Very touching and funny. Great pacing & performances. 5 stars
6/08/11 Simon Admirable nosedive into 'originality' & (un)mutual perspective held back by pretentiousness 4 stars
12/01/10 Barbara Leaf Chris Cooper is one of the best actors around. He had his teeth pulled for this film. 4 stars
1/14/10 Samantha P great dialog and great acting! 5 stars
12/14/09 Anonymous I liked this. It was incredibly original. 4 stars
12/05/08 K. Sear Entertaining, but is a little too on the nose. 4 stars
4/14/08 David Wow, clearly some ppl DONT understand this movie! 2 many weakminded ppl. Great Job Kaufman! 5 stars
3/20/08 gjhghj poop is brown 3 stars
11/13/07 Mads Frandsen WHAT A MOVIE! 5 stars
6/06/07 fools♫gold O yes, you (no, not you) will forget thatthing that embarrasesyoutoday. Like this sentence. 5 stars
3/12/07 mb Stopped watching after 25 min 2 stars
10/11/05 Agent Sands You have to be a writer to fully understand what Kaufman is saying, but anyone can enjoy it 5 stars
10/05/05 Jesse Taylor One of the best movies ever made. Charlie Kaufman is a genius! 5 stars
9/19/05 Indrid Cold Interesting how the profound message of so many "smart" movies is that love is the answer. 4 stars
9/02/05 Naka Strange and beautiful on every level. Kaufman is a genius. 5 stars
8/25/05 sbpat21 genius... 5 stars
8/06/05 Zack Another great Charlie Kaufman film! 5 stars
7/12/05 R.W. Welch Contrary to prevailing opinion, originality is not totally dead. See this pic. 4 stars
4/21/05 chris. important for film, important for idiots 5 stars
11/19/04 Brazilian John Great film. Original, true and competent 5 stars
11/17/04 My Two Cents No reviews I correctly identified the device of the twin brother 5 stars
10/21/04 Pete Richardson Wonderful story that dazzles the heart and the brain 5 stars
9/25/04 Agent Sands As a screenwriter, I can relate to EVERY SINGLE THING that happens to Charlie Kaufman in it 5 stars
9/22/04 Ron Peetoom Hard to imagine but...:even better than ´´Being John Malkovich´´ 5 stars
9/10/04 sebastian blume most original script in years 5 stars
8/16/04 Peter James A love it or hate it film...about a story within a story within a story...amazing 5 stars
8/01/04 Charles Meyerson Thought-provoking, funny and brilliantly acted 5 stars
4/11/04 Wildcarde1 i laughed , i cried...naw i just was bored 2 stars
2/03/04 Jack Bourbon About as funny as I've ever seen. Most unpredictable film ever. 5 stars
1/30/04 yeahboy DoN ur watching too much horror movies lately dat uve 4gotten hw 2 use ur brain 5 stars
1/25/04 Bomolub Perversely twisted and bizarre; blurs movie/reality boundaries wonderfully. 5 stars
1/10/04 Charles Tatum Oh God, I am Charlie Kaufman! 5 stars
12/11/03 Aaron A great film more people need to see. It's a shame movies like Bad Boys 2 make more money. 5 stars
11/23/03 A Williams a very inventive intelligent film 4 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee A boring story. I almost fell asleep until the crazy, crazy ending with the psychos. 2 stars
10/12/03 Dark Barøn Speachless. 5 stars
10/11/03 Jinnvisible (Art-twin+sellout-twin)%(Art-film+sellout-ending)=( Art - credibillity) 2over/rated+$$$£££ 3 stars
10/07/03 picky critic Overrated. One of those what-does-it-mean-to-be-human movies,but not terribly insightful. 3 stars
10/02/03 Harris You are what you love, not what loves you. 5 stars
8/14/03 Phil M. Aficionado A wild and daring ride that bends the mind (just enough); superb acting too. 5 stars
8/02/03 Rusell and Donald Liston Great film. The second best of 2002 besides The Pianist. Donald did not understand it. 5 stars
6/27/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng I fucking love this movie. Spike Jonze is a veteran. Nicolas Cage is awesome. 4 stars
6/25/03 Large Farve My wife chose Just Married over this... My house is shamed... 5 stars
6/24/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik brilliant writing 5 stars
6/18/03 Andrew Callaway Original... intelluctual... Donald is fictional. 4 stars
6/15/03 Flick Chick wonderfully bizarre 5 stars
6/11/03 George Jung If anything else, at least it's original. 4 stars
6/10/03 Jack Bourbon Why does Charlie, and not Donald, get all of the credit for this film? 5 stars
6/06/03 Taylor Fladgate Great actors at their best...what a cast! 4 stars
6/05/03 Erik Van Sant Cage finally makes a good movie! Kaufman and Jonze are a perfect team. 5 stars
5/26/03 mipchunk most definitely the best movie of the year! 5 stars
5/25/03 Jack Sommersby Forced, shallow black comedy piles on the sensationalism and omits the wit. 1 stars
5/21/03 Mickey With A C tedious to watch: black comedy happens suddenly 4 stars
4/17/03 skye chapman BEST MOVIE of the year 5 stars
4/10/03 Jack Bourbon When a movie makes you laugh your ass off simply b/c it shows a gun, it's got to be great. 5 stars
3/30/03 Roy Smith Bizarre but brilliant. 4 stars
3/23/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III GENIUS! 5 stars
3/22/03 Donald Kaufman WORSHIP ME. 5 stars
3/20/03 Shadaan Felfeli i didn't sit through it ! 3 stars
3/19/03 bob mckenzie a vain attempt by kaufman to usurp BJM success 3 stars
3/06/03 me you arse Jesus anyone who didn't like this movie doesn't have a soul 5 stars
3/04/03 Eschenennock Manville Contorted story-within-story; how much is fact and how much is fiction is anyone's guess. 4 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Good Screenplay, but Weak and Contrived Performances. 3 stars
2/03/03 Kyle Amazing. 5 stars
2/03/03 Titus Very artistic, fascinating in many ways, but also a bit unfufilling and depressing. 4 stars
1/27/03 John Bale Remarkable stream of conciousness that expands the art of Cinema. Cage's top performance. 5 stars
1/22/03 Jen Above average film/Wonderful Cast/Being John Malkovich was better/Adapation was too 8 1/2 4 stars
1/20/03 Sandy G. Only the last 20 minutes were entertaining. 2 stars
1/20/03 Josh One of the best films of 2002. 5 stars
1/19/03 Suzz Imaginative aspects to it but also dull, boring and plodding. Audience was laughless. 2 stars
1/17/03 Angolmois It has moments of great poignancy and some (purposefully) ludicrous crap. Acting is superb. 5 stars
1/14/03 Mark Spivey One of the best movies I've ever seen...the most stirring themes one can imagine 5 stars
1/14/03 Lakeside ecrivain Actors true to complex script. Great industry satire! Haveing fun@audience could backfire 4 stars
1/10/03 Sean HM Must see again...pee your pants funny 5 stars
1/06/03 Caiphn Finally Nicholas Cage proves that he can actually act. 4 stars
1/03/03 Monday Morning What a letdown. 3 stars
12/22/02 James VG Great ride. Complex, but w/o having to ask 'What?'. Interestingly woven timelines/dreams. 4 stars
12/20/02 Wayne Give me a fucking break. What a shit film! 1 stars
12/17/02 steven seagal i'd rather punch my own head in than watch this shit. 1 stars
12/16/02 Reid Blackman An emotionally insightful and sharply intelligent film. 5 stars
12/16/02 Steven J Pretentious failure that shoots itself in the foot by the end. Too artsy for its own good! 2 stars
12/09/02 John Failed satire on Hollywood, endevours to prove it's point by becoming what it parodies. 3 stars
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  06-Dec-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Spike Jonze

Written by
  Charlie Kaufman

  Nicolas Cage
  Meryl Streep
  Chris Cooper
  Brian Cox
  John Cusack
  Judy Greer

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