Adaptation (2002)

Written by Charlie & Donald Kaufman, based on the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Tilda Swinton

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Charlie Kaufman (Cage) has a problem. No, scratch that. He has several problems. First of all, he hates himself with a passion. Second, his twin brother Donald (also Cage) is a hanger-on loser who can't seem to do anything right. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, in the wake of the buzz off of Being John Malkovich, he's signed up to adapt the book The Orchid Thief. Written by Susan Orlean (Streep), it's a non-fiction tale of a man (Cooper) who does exactly as the title says. Trouble is, how the hell do you write a screenplay about flowers?

Well, this was disappointing. An obvious send-up of the Hollywood machine, it's sure to be a critical darling and win some awards. And it could certainly merit some. First and foremost, Malkovich, John Cusack and Catherine Keener get some kind of Good Sports Awards for coming back to play themselves on the set of the Being John flick. Second, Cooper is always an extremely solid character actor, and it's about damn time he got some recognition for what he's been doing for years. And while this is certainly a departure for Streep--at least the biggest one she's had since Death Becomes Her--the other standout is Cage, capturing the self-loathing writer to a veritable T. The fact that he's taking the risk of playing an overweight balding man is not impressive; the fact that he chose to do it and do it well twice in one movie is.

The reason Malkovich was such a profound and novel film was that it used very unorthodox means to tell us something about humanity that we all instinctively know, but we need it brought to the surface every once in a while. The problem here is that Kaufman (or Kaufmans, if you wish) uses very unorthodox means to tell us something about Hollywood that everybody knows. Sure industry types, movie buffs and critics will rejoice...but is that really all there is? Sure there are some great moments about humanity but they're only moments. For the most part, it's not a bad film, but it felt like it was trying to be something much more than it was.

So, in a nutshell: it wants to be profound. It isn't. It isn't telling us anything new, and the method of telling us the same old Hollywood story isn't novel enough to keep you from wishing you were watching something else. If it weren't for the quality of actors involved, this would have scored a lot lower. It will lose nothing on your screen at home.

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