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Adaptation. (2002)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  14 February 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 136,139 users   Metascore: 83/100
Reviews: 706 user | 237 critic | 40 from Metacritic.com

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean for the screen.



(book), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 51 wins & 82 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Russell (as G. Paul Davis)
Ranger Steve Neely (scenes deleted)
Orlean's Husband


While his latest movie Being John Malkovich (1999) is in production, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is hired by Valerie Thomas to adapt Susan Orlean's non-fiction book "The Orchid Thief" for the screen. Thomas bought the movie rights before Orlean wrote the book, when it was only an article in The New Yorker. The book details the story of rare orchid hunter John Laroche, whose passion for orchids and horticulture made Orlean discover passion and beauty for the first time in her life. Charlie wants to be faithful to the book in his adaptation, but despite Laroche himself being an interesting character in his own right, Charlie is having difficulty finding enough material in Laroche to fill a movie, while equally not having enough to say cinematically about the beauty of orchids. At the same time, Charlie is going through other issues in his life. His insecurity as a person doesn't allow him to act upon his feelings for Amelia Kavan, who is interested in him as a man. And Charlie's twin ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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... Waiting to be adapted. One story... Four Lives... A million ways it can end. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, sexuality, some drug use and violent images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

14 February 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Orchid Thief  »

Box Office


$19,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$384,478 (USA) (6 December 2002)


$89,971 (Hong Kong) (13 June 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


A paragraph from Donald Kaufman's script "The Three" is shown at the very end of the credits. It reads: "We're all one thing, Lieutenant. That's what I've come to realize. Like cells in a body. 'Cept we can't see the body. The way fish can't see the ocean. And so we envy each other. Hurt each other. Hate each other. How silly is that? A heart cell hating a lung cell." - Cassie from THE THREE See more »


When Susan talks about past orchid hunters, we see one in China being beaten to death. As his attacker stands, he pulls off his fake beard. See more »


[first lines]
Charlie Kaufman: [voiceover] Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat I would ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the closing credits, there's a quote from Donald's screenplay "The Three" and a dedication "To the loving memory of Donald Kaufman." See more »


Referenced in Wait, Wait, Don't Kill Me (2015) See more »


One Part Lullaby
Written by John Davis, Lou Barlow and Wally Gagel
Published by Careers-BMG Music Publishing, Inc. o/b/o itself, Endless Soft Hits, Loobiecore and Blisswg Productions
Performed by The Folk Implosion
Courtesy of Interscope Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

I get it now.
26 April 2005 | by (UK) – See all my reviews

The first time I saw "Adaptation" I expected something else and walked away severely disappointed. As some of you out there who Private Messaged me in regards to my initial review posted on IMDb might already be aware, I originally gave it a rating of 3.5/5 stars, back when I was frequently contributing to the site. I passed on without much thought, considering it a disappointment and leaving my critique for those who cared to read it.

It remains the single comment to have generated the most feedback for me. More than "The Passion of the Christ," and more than yes, even my upsetting review of 2003's "Peter Pan" (which seemed to anger the small die-hard fanbase for the film that lurks on these message boards - by the way, I've had to clarify this sentence by adding "for the film" because someone PM'd me yesterday accusing me of implying I have a fanbase on IMDb...no, I am referring to the film's fanbase, so please hold off on the accusations). I digress. In summary I gave "Adaptation" a negative rating and to my surprise, perhaps because I avoided totally slamming the film, the fans responded to me with kind words rather than harsh ones; conceivably they too had initially taken a dislike to the film? I made a daring move. I bought "Adaptation" on DVD for ten bucks, thinking, "I've got nothing to lose." Plus, the front cover looked cool anyway.

I watched it again (after taking into mind several themes and self-referential layers I had failed to visualize before) and was blown away by the originality and genius of the movie.

My hugest complaint regarding "Adaptation," originally, was its absurd ending -- I felt it was out of place, silly, and totally anti-climactic. Little did I realize this was the point -- to be a parody of the typical Hollywood blockbuster.

There are so many underlying jokes, gags and self-references that the film grows better -- like "Back to the Future" -- on each new viewing. You're always finding new stuff.

I found new respect for Nicolas Cage as an actor after my second viewing of this. I have always liked Cage despite the criticism he receives for being a one-sided actor; here, he proves he's capable of creating two very different human beings out of the same mold. Brilliant, Oscar-worthy stuff.

All in all I got it wrong the first time. "Adaptation" isn't a film that starts out clever and descends into a messy and stupid finish. Well, actually, it is. But that's the point. I didn't get it before. Now I do.

If you disliked this film, my advice? Watch it again. It knows a bit more about itself than you probably do. And read up on the message boards here a bit to get a clearer grasp of what's going on if you're totally clueless.

P.S. I'd like to thank all the people on this site who messaged me in response to my review.

335 of 435 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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