Adaptation (2002) A Fascinating Desire


DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze

Why can’t there be a movie simply about flowers?

Charlie Kaufman (Cage) tries to convince himself of that very thing as the go-to screenwriter to adapt Susan Orlean’s ( Streep) book “The Orchard Thief.” Trouble is, it’s that sprawling New Yorker shit. He can’t adapt it. Charlie Kaufman is the screenwriter best known for Being John Malkovich which does get a reference in this film. He’s a sought after writer but has the most severe case of writer’s block for this screenplay.


The book is a nonfiction piece about a Florida man called John Laroche played excellently by Chris Cooper. Laroche is a flower breeder in search of a Ghost Orchid. He’s an interesting hippyish character without front teeth that desires the flower he can not find. Director Jonze knows how to capture the moments on screen of what Kaufman’s mind is thinking. A writer is always paced, thinking, overanalysing, racy, self correcting and unconfident. Jonze focuses on elements and adds to them by showing us stimulating imagery of Darwinist theory , the birth of man and fleeting thoughts that Kaufman projects into his voice recorder.

Charlie has a twin brother in Donald ( Cage, again) who doesn’t exist in real life but is a character in this film who desires and has a compulsion to be just like his brother, a screenwriter in the industry. Donald’s  fascination with writing takes a different approach to Charlie’s. Donald represents what Charlie isn’t and Nicholas Cage executes the performance of both characters with total uniqueness.

Charlie needs to meet script deadlines but can’t put his best foot forward on the script. How does he present Laroche, Orlean and understand the story? He succumbs to Donald’s recommendation to see Robert Mckee’s  Story Seminar. Again Robert McKee is a widely known real person in the industry who has written a book called Story on screenwriting. Brian Cox as Mckee offers the most frankest advice to Charlie about film structure and what we watch unfold is brilliant.


Adaption is a movie where you can not review thoroughly without giving away spoilers. You watch Adaptation and become memorised and captured by storytelling. If you had your favourite picture book read by you Poppa the only way he knows how, perfectly. Then it will be an enjoyable experience. Charlie Kaufman the writer and Spike Jonze directing know a good story and this is told in a superb way.

What we see here are characters wanting desire for something, a compulsion to achieve, a fascination to grow, a want to create change. We see the real world.


Nicholas Cage as Charlie Kaufman/ Donald Kaufman

Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean

Chris Cooper as John Laroche

Brian Cox as Robert McKee

Tilda Swinton as Valerie Thomas



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