Time Out saysSomething of a shrinking violet, Charlie Kaufman (Cage) is struggling to adapt Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief into a movie. But he loves the book too much, and it's only when he writes himself into the script that the words start to grow. Even then, there's no third act. According to screenwriting guru Robert McKee (who also figures in the film, played by Brian Cox), this is 'your basic education plot, crisscrossed with a disillusionment plot, but in the broad category of autobiography'. The way I see it (and if Kaufman can write himself into the movie, I don't see why we shouldn't all join in), Adaptation. represents the absolute antithesis of the McKee doctrine of pre-fabricated story construction and reductive emotional 'arcs'. These guys are thinking way out of the box. The Hollywood-insider jibes cut all the more deeply for the fact that Kaufman obviously feels split about his own gifts and motivations (hence the inspired invention of his crass commercial 'twin', Donald, gratefully seized on by the exuberant Cage). But this discursive, unpredictable comedy is more than smoke and mirrors. It's truly astute about a certain diffidence which afflicts the intellectual elite (beautifully caught by Streep as Susan Orlean), about the self-consuming nature of obsession, and about orchids, come to that. For two-thirds of its running time the film is close to genius. But there's still no third act.
Cast and crew
Chris Cooper, Curtis Hanson, Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage, Brian Cox, Cara Seymour, Catherine Keener, Ron Livingston, Jay Tavare, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, John Cusack, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Judy Greer