Elsa S. Customer suggests Adaptation (in Feature Drama). From Spike Jonze, director of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation. is the movie version of Susan Orlean’s noted non-fiction book The Orchid Thief. Except, wait, it’s not; it’s the story of the writing of the movie of The Orchid Thief. Or, um, it’s the movie of the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Synecdoche, NY) being unable to write the screenplay for the movie version of The
Orchid Thief — that is, unable to write the movie you’re watching. Wait, what? It sounds like a mess, and it is that — a big, glorious mess. Usually, that would sound a warning bell, but here, the mess is carefully wrought and fully intentional, an artistic choice in the process of creating a masterwork. Adaptation turns out to be a highly fictionalized, nervewrackingly hilarious, harrowingly naked metatextual account of the sheer bloody impossibility of writing, especially for such a narrow and fickle market as Hollywood. Nicholas Cage puts in his twice-a-decade “Look, I can really act!” performance — and boy howdy, can he! He balances impossibly on the edge between sympathetic and sickening, hedging no bets and opening himself as actors rarely dare. Legendary Meryl Streep glows as Susan Orlean, the frustrated writer trying to make sense out of the story without succumbing to its seedy allure. Chris Cooper (as the titular orchid thief) submerges so far into his character as to be invisible — he’s a stealth actor. Adaptation keeps winding and turning, wilting and blooming, until its efflorescence grows wild and there’s no predicting which way it will turn.