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Adaptation. More at IMDbPro »

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339 out of 395 people found the following review useful:

The ending

9/10
Author: steezo
1 October 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've read many of the comments regarding Adaptation, and it seems as though most people have disliked this movie because of its ending. They make claims such as, "Kaufman's script was great until the end," or, "Why did Kaufman talk about not wanting to "hollywoodize" his script, and then do it in the end anyway?"

I don't think most people understand why he did it.

Throughout the movie, Kaufman's character keeps stressing how much he doesn't want to make a "Hollywood" film. Hollywood-type films have sex, drugs, car chases, and most importantly, characters who succeed in the end. So at a glance, it seems that Kaufman goes against his inner most desires regarding the film because he does "hollywoodize" it.

But that is what I find to be the most clever part of his screenplay. To explain my point, try to imagine this-what if Kaufman did not "hollywoodize" his script? If he didn't do it, Kaufman would not have added car chases, sex, and drugs. So in a way, if this were the case, Kaufman would have succeeded. But you see, that is the point. Kaufman DID NOT want his character to succeed in the end. Like he explained throughout the movie, "I don't want to have a film...where characters succeed in the end." Thus, since Kaufman ultimately fails at his attempt to adapt Susan Orlean's book into a screenplay in how he originally intended, he delivers a screenplay that is not your normal hollywood film, i.e., a film where the protagonist prevails.

Basically, in order to make his film "un-hollywood," he "hollywoodizes" it. Can nobody see the genius of this?

Anyway, I just thought that I could offer everyone my take on the movie so that you all may perceive Kaufman's ending in a different light.

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324 out of 414 people found the following review useful:

I get it now.

10/10
Author: MovieAddict2014 from UK
26 April 2005

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.

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158 out of 205 people found the following review useful:

Could you be more Original?

10/10
Author: Kris Patmo from Amsterdam
15 March 2003

Incredible.

Charlie Kaufman might just be the most genius screenwriter (I daren't say ever) at the moment. I mean, trying to adapt a book for a screenplay, not succeeding, yet in the process writing a screenplay about how you can't seem to adapt this book for a screenplay. Oh yeah, and also being helped by your not existing twin brother, and crediting him as co-writer, and being nominatad for an Oscar together with him.

Is anyone following this?

Kaufman seems to be the master of destroying the line between reality and fiction.

I kind of have a hard time saying anything about this movie, because I don't know what to say. You should just go and say it. There's nothing like it.

If you liked Being John Malkovic you wil definitely love this. If you hated BJM you might still like it. It doesn't have the absurdity and surreality of BJM. The story is just incredibly intelligently written.

Even though the movie is about how Kaufman is unable to adapt this book, he actually succeeds in doing just that in the process.

Jesus, I'm still totally stunned.

Jonze does do a very good job once again. But the direction is just outshined by the story...

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89 out of 111 people found the following review useful:

Clever... too clever?

9/10
Author: TheOtherFool from The Netherlands
21 May 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

John Laroche (an excellent, award-winning Chris Cooper) is a plant lover, specialized in orchids. Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) writes a story about it, and later a book. Charlie Kaufman (the always cool Nicholas Cage) has to adapt the book to a screenplay.

Basicly, that's the story right there. But this movie comes with so many twists, it's hard to catch up.

First of, Susan Orlean and her book really exist. As does Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine o/t Spotless Mind). In fact, Kaufman has written this movie. So Kaufman wrote a movie about Kaufman writing a movie. You get it? Then there's the fact that all storylines are happening at the same time (think The Hours). Add to that the twin brother Donald Kaufman, who's also writing some parts. Or is he...? Does he even exist at all?

The most confusing (and amusing) part is that movie-Kaufman (that's Cage) is talking about making this movie. He's telling himself 'we open with a van on the highway' and we've actually seen that part. It goes even beyond that, when we hear him talk to his recorder: 'Charlie Kaufman is talking to his recorder'. I loved that part.

But it's a movie you have to go along with. Kaufman and Jonze try desperately to be clever and they've managed to do so. It's one of the most original movies of the last ten years, but I'm sure it's not for all tastes. If you like Being John Malkovich you should probably give it a go though.

My score: 8/10.

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76 out of 89 people found the following review useful:

"The script I'm starting, it's about flowers. No one's ever done a movie about flowers before."

9/10
Author: ackstasis from Australia
20 July 2007

After the phenomenal success of 'Being John Malkovich' in 1999, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman was commissioned to adapt Susan Orlean's non-fiction novel, "The Orchid Thief," for the screen. However, it didn't take long for him to realise that Orlean's book was basically unfilmable, its sprawling and ponderous story lacking any clear structure or coherence. After some months of struggling vainly to write a screenplay from the novel, Kaufman's script inexplicably became the story of a writer's effort to adapt an unadaptable novel. Kaufman's completed script was presented to his financial backers with some trepidation, but they reportedly loved it so much that they decided to abandon the original project and film his screenplay. Spike Jonze, who had also directed "Being John Malkovich," returned to direct "Adaptation," the quirky, twisting, self-referential film that received almost universal critical acclaim. Much like Federico Fellini's classic 1963 film, '8½,' from which Kaufman almost certainly drew inspiration, 'Adaptation' tells the story of its own creation.

Nicolas Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, the lonely, insecure and socially awkward screenwriter who is hired to adapt "The Orchid Thief," written by Susan Orlean, who is portrayed by Meryl Streep. The novel itself concerns the story of John Laroche (played by Chris Cooper), a smug plant dealer who was arrested in 1994 for poaching rare orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. As Kaufman struggles to write the script, his troubles are compounded by the presence of his twin brother, Donald (also played by Nicolas Cage), who is Charlie's exact opposite: reckless, carefree, over-confident and perhaps even a bit dim. The script for 'Adaptation' darts back and forth between different moments in time, either chronicling Kaufman's screen writing exploits or Orlean's experiences in writing her novel. At several points in the story, more dramatic flashbacks take place: we see Charles Darwin first penning his theories of evolution and adaptation, a brief history of the grim activity of orchid-hunting, and, in one particularly impressive sequence, we are taken back billions of years to the beginning of life, to trace how Charlie Kaufman came to be here today.

Though purportedly based on a true story, the events of the film are highly fictionalised, and the story always treads a fine line with reality, with the audience never certain of whether or not an event is real (in the context of the film) or merely a creation of Charlie's (or even Donald's) imagination. Charlie Kaufman (the true-life writer, not the character) often receives most of the accolades for the film, but it is director Spike Jonze who shared the vision to execute "Adaptation" on screen. His approach to film-making is always original and daring, never tentative of trying something unique for the sake of the film, even if it may offend the tastes of an audience that is unaccustomed to anything other than the mundane clichés of the modern movies that are churned out daily by Hollywood studios. If this wasn't completely obvious after the weird, twisted, fascinating 'Being John Malkovich,' then 'Adaptation' put any lingering doubts to rest. The director, who started his career directing music videos, seems to share a singular understanding with Kaufman the writer, and a mutual agreement on what the film is actually trying to say.

In addition to a clever story, 'Adaptation' contains some of the finest acting of the 2000s, presenting an excellent selection of seasoned talents at the top of their games. In arguably the greatest role(s) of his career, Nicolas Cage is phenomenal as both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, twin brothers whose complete polarity is startlingly evident in the execution of their respective film scripts. Charlie, whilst writing his adaptation, is determined to avoid the usual clichés and construct a film without any conventional plot, to write a movie "simply about flowers." Donald, however, blissfully oblivious to his own unoriginality as a writer, churns out a hackneyed psychological thriller, entitled 'The 3,' in which the serial killer, his female hostage and the cop are the very same person. In an ironic twist of fate, Donald's trite treatment is hailed as a masterpiece, adding further to the inadequacy already being felt by his disillusioned brother. Cage is excellent, and often absolutely hilarious, as both characters, giving each brother a distinct attitude and personality, so that it is possible to tell immediately which is which even though their physical appearance is exactly the same.

Meryl Streep is equally excellent as Susan Orlean, the journalist for "The New Yorker" who researches John Laroche and endeavours to catch a glimpse of the famed and very rare Ghost Orchid, if only to understand what it feels like to be passionate about something. Chris Cooper arguably steals the entire show as the charismatic and enigmatic Laroche, whose tragedy-afflicted life is dedicated to mastering numerous obscure fields (such as orchid-collecting, or fish-collecting), each of which is sporadically cast aside and permanently forgotten as soon as he feels it's time to move on, to "adapt" to another hobby. From four Academy Award nominations, only Cooper walked away with a statue. Notably, Charlie Kaufman's screenplay was also nominated for an Oscar. Since the script was credited to both "Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman," the latter became the only entirely fictional person in history to have been nominated for an Academy Award.

In a nutshell, 'Adaptation' is all about failure. Charlie Kaufman is absolutely determined to write an original script, without cramming in "sex or guns or car chases or characters learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end." However, after he eventually asks Donald to complete the script for him, it descends into exactly that. A visit to a screen-writing seminar by Robert McKee (memorably played by Brian Cox) – who is famous for warning strongly against Deus Ex Machina – is used as exactly that. Charlie Kaufman the character fails miserably in writing his script, but, ironically, Charlie Kaufman the writer succeeds ever so magnificently!

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53 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

Cage redeemed.

9/10
Author: continuo from Ireland
27 July 2003

A brilliant, original film, hilariously funny almost all the way through, which is why the end seems disjointed and a bit out of sync with the rest of the film...until you consider McKee's advice to Kaufman, the success of Donald's cliched script, and the pressure on Charlie Kaufman (in the film) to finish the script. So it suddenly becomes a thriller, there's drama added to a genuinely moving story and characters, and it seems to rush towards its ending unprepared. But that's the whole postmodern element of the film - is it deliberately bad and pat (like the Player - a much lesser film that doesn't stand up after repeated viewing)?

Anyway, Cage is fantastic in this - really if the Oscars were about acting, he should have got it for articulating two characters brilliantly. After the mess of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, it's some achievement.

A must see - but you need to engage your brain for this!

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52 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

A Guide on "How To Write A Screenplay" and "How to Live Life"…

10/10
Author: Sergeant_Tibbs from Suffolk, England
12 May 2007

Jonze and Kaufman have pulled it off again. Witty, surreal, brilliant, inventive, amazing and most of all; the most inspirational film I have ever seen. One of the best and definitive films of the 21st Century.

Nicolas Cage has two parts in this film, Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman, twin brothers. Both screen writers. Charlie is writing a screenplay based on a book called "The Orchid Thief" {a real book}. But nothing happens in it. He is finding it hard to stay true to the book when there's no events in the book. Writer's block. Meanwhile, Donald is storming through his screenplay which is about a serial killer with split personalities – a theme regularly used in cinema today. This is a take on how and why there are so many teen horrors with crappy ideas, while films that would appeal to a smaller audience are harder to conjure. During the course of Adaptation. we see Charlie's screenplay "The Orchid Thief" showing as it would if it became a film, featuring the author; Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) and the books protagonist, John Laroche (Chris Cooper).

Charlie Kaufman {the character} is one of the most relatable characters in cinema for me. He too is looking for inspiration, something to help achieve his dreams, but he can't seem to find it. He waits for something to come and change his life for the good but never takes the opportunity. He worries about the most insignificant things that aren't life-changing. But the difference to me and Kaufman, is that he finds the way. In the end he has learnt his lesson and learnt how to live life. I am going to take the same advice. His narration gives us a very detailed guide of his feelings and thoughts.

Nic Cage gives a redeeming performance and one of the best of his career as both Charlie and Donald. They are very different personality-wise, Charlie being nervous and frustrated, while Donald is almost too upbeat about everything. His chemistry with himself is incredible its hard to believe they are the same. Chris Cooper delivers an Oscar winning performance, and it sure was worthy. Very fun character, taking away his seriousness whenever he should be serious. Meryl Streep is also flawless, giving a performance which she shows her moods appropriate to the scene.

Spike Jonze gives us a very interesting directional view. With a lot of tie-in's with Being John Malkovich (his previous film) to show us his own little world, where anything can happen. There are also a lot of tie-in's with the film itself in which Kaufman comes up with an idea for the script in the film, when it actually happens in this film (while his ideas are for "The Orchid Thief"). And, of course, there is the strange factor in which Charlie Kaufman has included himself in his screenplay… and in the film, the character Charlie Kaufman has included himself in his own screenplay. It is truly hard to believe how Kaufman comes up with this stuff.

This may lack the dark style of "Being John Malkovich", but they are in the same world. Don't miss this moving comedy and hilarious drama. I can't help but get lost in its wonder.

10/10

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54 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Adapt Your Thinking

9/10
Author: Andrew Howard (lhseaglerunner@hotmail.com) from Rochester, MN
15 January 2003



While taking a break from studying for my calculus final (a brain-draining exercise to say the least), I sat down to write out this review on what was, no doubt about it, a brain-draining movie (in an offbeat but good way). Of course I expected this from `Adaptation', for last month, in every major magazine, it has been touted as a mind-twisting ride, which piqued my interest.

Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage), by his own admission, is a loser. By my viewing, that's a fairly accurate description-if you add neurotic. Anyhow, Kaufman is a talented screenwriter, who, after writing what is his `script of a lifetime' (`Being John Malkovich), he takes on a project that is over his head-adapting Susan Orlean's (Meryl Streep) book, `The Orchid Thief' into an amazing film about flowers that will stun and amaze all.

The plot diverges here. One path follows Kaufman along the road to the inevitable breakdown of writer's block that forces him to jump from idea to idea in vain attempt to write a screenplay, until he commits the cardinal sin of screenwriting-writing himself into the script. This is not helped in the least by his hack brother Donald (Nicholas Cage) successfully working on his own script (a complete antithesis of his own).

The other road follows Orlean as she goes about writing her book three years earlier. The book is about a dentally challenged Floridian orchid thief, John Laroche (Chris Cooper), who is personable enough to cause Orlean to fall for him, his drugs, and his outside-the-law lifestyle.

As you might well imagine, this is not your usual Friday-night flick. The complexity of three separate, yet interwoven plots (Laroche the thief, Orlean writing about the thief and Kaufman writing about the writer writing about the thief) is stunning and the end, for those who will get it (I did not at first) will blow you away once it hits you…I'll give you a bit of help in knowing why the ending works later on. Oh, and Charlie (but not Donald) Kaufman, Susan Orlean, and John Laroche are all real people, which will make the film infinitely easier to understand.

Nicholas Cage is amazing. To have to carry out the performances of two different characters is certainly a feat, but to do it with such widely disparate characters like the Kaufmans is really nothing less than wondrous. Not to be outdone, Meryl Streep is superb, especially in the third act of the movie when her character becomes a more physical one. As for Cooper, well, I don't want to insult the guy, but he comes across as a redneck hick and a shyster, which is exactly what the script demanded.

All glory praise and honor for these fine actors would be for naught, had it not been for director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman (see that name before?). What they have done is simply amazing and is a tribute to their brilliance. Visually, the film does not stand out much (except for the fast-action evolution sequences that are worth their while). In short, kudos to the entire staff.

I promised earlier to give you some help in figuring out why the ending works…before I thought of this nugget of info (instead of studying anti-derivatives), the ending had me confused and slightly angry. The key to the ending is in the opening credits, in the line `Written by Charlie and Donald Kaufman'. Good luck in comprehending the ending. I give this film my first 10 of the year.

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80 out of 132 people found the following review useful:

actors & director create startling and original film

8/10
Author: BronxvilleFilmFan
4 December 2002

"Adaptation" is an off-the-wall film with a startling second half. Overall, the film is darkly comic, but viewers get an unexpected dose of movie action and violence before everything is said and done.

It's fair to say that there is a fair amount of violence in the film, and even when you know it's coming, you're still caught off guard. Spike Jonze is merciless in this regard. Some of the scenes are incredibly graphic, in fact.

There is a certain adolescent male tone to the film (the violence + sexual fantasy + masturbation). This is partially due to characterization and partially due to the director's own aesthetic and perspective. It's not a bad thing, necessarily, either. It just feels as if an unassuming (white male) kid who grew up thinking a lot about girls and watching movies where stuff blowed up made this film... See it and you'll know what I'm saying.

The script is crazy. Absolutely zany. Akin to "Being John Malkovich" really. Fortunately, this well gives opportunity for Nic Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper to really be free with their art.

Cage has a difficult role, portraying two very different identical twin brothers. Cage is at the emotional core of the film. If his performance doesn't resonate, the film doesn't work. I thought Cage was excellent. And that the script really gives him some wonderful, challenging material to work with. His first scene with Tilda Swinton (looking gorgeous!) is excellent.

Meryl Streep...well, what can be said. She's fantastic. She exudes a tiredness and connectedness and hopelessness and sadness, evolving the character brilliantly over the course of the film.

Similarly, Chris Cooper brings a humanity to the role of the Orchad Thief, really grounding the narrative and making it all believable. Again, he's given a brilliant opening scene and he works wonders with it. Throughout, he is believably arrogant, lonely, vulnerable, and just plain real. Cooper's performance is as rich as any other I've seen this year; truly, truly sublime.

"Adaptation" is certainly not for everyone. If you're looking for something starkly different and simmering with originality, give this film a try, though. Amidst some cloying self-referential clap-trap, there are actually some really freshing film moments.

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67 out of 113 people found the following review useful:

For me, it's uniqueness was both it's making and it's undoing

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
5 October 2003

Following his success as screenwriter for 'Being John Malcovich', Charlie Kaufman is given the job of adapting Susan Orlean's book 'The Orchid Thief' which she expanded from a piece in The New Yorker that she wrote on the obsessive orchid hunter John Laroche. While Charlie struggles to adapt the book into a workable film, his twin brother, Donald, writes a successful script around serial killers. The more Charlie struggles to get a story from the book the more the stories and his life start to intertwine.

I wanted to see this film because I had enjoyed BJM and was interested to see what Jonze did next. I came to it with a vague knowledge of the plot but nowhere near enough o have expectations. For the majority of the film, the different style and presentation kept me deeply interested. The way the different stories occurred in different times and places worked a lot better than I would have expected it to. The plot gets increasingly difficult to follow and you'll get as much as you want from it. For those just looking for a simple story then you'll have a nice neat resolution, if you want more then more is there for you as you try to work out what part of the film is real and what part isn't.

I came away with mixed feelings. I felt that the ending was not as clever as it thought it was and didn't give a good ending for those who weren't happy to accept things at face value. I didn't feel let down I just felt that the last section of the film stepped down a gear rather than up. I know that this is the point that Jonze was making perhaps, by allowing Donald's derided ending come to live and be the replacement for Charlie's original aim. But it didn't totally do it for me. Up till this section I was hooked and felt that the various stories all worked to form a mix of drama and comedy. However the end does a disservice to it's characters.

Cage shows that the recent cr*p he has been in doesn't mean he can't act (just that he doesn't). He really brings his two characters to life and plays them so well that it is easy to forget that it is the same person in both roles. Cooper is wonderful and deserved his Oscar for support. Streep, as much as I dislike her, was very good and brought that difficult character out – although I did feel she was the one most betrayed by the film's end.

Overall this was an interesting film that worked in most areas. It's difference and it's inventiveness were such that I wanted to keep watching. However I, and I know others will disagree, felt that this uniqueness was not well served by the end of the film. I understand that it was not meant to exist in the same way as the majority of the film but I still felt that the ending didn't meet the standard set by the rest of the film.

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