Adaptation. is an adaptation of a book being adapted within the movie that’s being watched. If you thought Being John Malkovich was bizarre, director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman matched that insanity in a very meta way. Adaptation. was always on my radar, but it was mostly a co-worker who recommended it. The adaptation takes place during the filming of Being John Malkovich as Charlie Kaufman works on his next movie project. Nicolas Cage earned his second nomination for Best Actor as his insanity is put to good use playing both the real life Charlie and his fictional twin brother Donald.
Kaufman suffers from severe writer’s block attempting to adapt The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Since the book is mostly about flowers, it somehow makes sense to make a movie about trying to make it interesting. Charlie is also full of self-loathing and has sexually frustrated fantasies with Judy Greer. Cara Seymour, Tilda Swinton, and Maggie Gyllenhaal play fictional characters, but Ron Livingston and Brian Cox play a real life movie executive and story consultant respectively. As Charlie works on his script and Donald writes the fictitious thriller The 3, Susan Orlean is in the process of writing The Orchid Thief.
Of course Meryl Streep received another Oscar nomination as the real life author. Although initially objecting to her portrayal as a sexually repressed drug addict, Orlean’s book is well adapted. All the awards attention ended up going to Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper as the titular orchid thief John Laroche. He’s rough on the outside, but his passion for flowers awakens something in Orlean and Kaufman. Their stories intertwin in a crazy way that obviously never happened. Adaptation. ended up better than the intended source material.