Adaptation (2002)

“I’ve written myself into my screenplay.”

Leave to Charlie Kaufman (with the help of “Donald Kaufman”) to pen one of the most neurotic and meta stories ever that also manages to be mind-blowingly innovative, hilarious, exciting, relatable, and somehow even a bit sad. Yes, any and all of his other movies can be described in the same way, but Adaptation stands as the pinnacle example of Kaufman’s ceaseless neurosis that his characters live with. And why is that? Well, the protagonist in this film is...Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage). Self-indulgent? No. Insane and brilliant? Yes.

"With Kaufman’s personal and hysterical pen and Jonze’s keen vision for bizarre and human stories, Adaptation is a classic. Period."

Flowers. No one has ever made a movie about flowers before. This poses an exciting challenge that screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has be tasked with as he attempts to adapt the book "The Orchid Thief" written by New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). Or so he thinks.

As indicated by the continual stream of self-loathing thoughts and worries in an excellent use of voice over, Charlie is as anxious and neurotic as they come. His attempts at trying to write a script that is faithful to the book but also meaningful and interesting is way harder than Charlie originally thought. As Charlie puts it in the film: flowers are not interesting. The book has no structure. There’s no real story. At least that’s what he says to try and justify or hide his anxieties and inability to write the script. And to make matters worse, Charlie’s confident and charming older brother, Donald (also Cage), decides on a whim that he too wants to be a screenwriter and finds almost immediate success with screenplay full of tropes and clichés that Charlie despises.

Through Charlie’s narration of passages of the book, the film intercuts flashbacks to when Orlean was doing research for her book. And that research was spending quality with the strange yet charming John Laroche (Chris Cooper), who spouts of what Orlean concludes are delusions of grandeur. Despite his quirkiness, Orlean is continually intrigued this strange character and surprising intelligence and hangs on in anticipation for the so-called life-changing experience ofseeing the rare ghost orchid. And although Orlean’s book ends one way, perhaps there is more to her relationship with Laroche then she’s willing to admit.

For starters, one of the best things about this film is Kaufman’s constant voice over constantly rambling his anxious thoughts every second. It is both hilarious and relatable. Is this how Kaufman is in his real life? Well, I’m sure it is a bit exaggerated, yes. But regardless, this painfully awkward and anxious persona of the writer is portrayed by wonderfully by Cage in an extremely vulnerable performance that is probably one of the best of his career.Adaptation (2002)

What is so astonishing about Adaptation is its ability to incorporate bits of multiple genres into one film between its two storylines in such an innovative way. Drama, comedy, romance, and even action. Yes, a film about flowers has an action sequence in it.

And while the first two acts are us laughing at Charlie’s failed attempts at writing the script and also deducing what to really make of Orlean and Laroche, the third act is what really kicks the film into high gear.  After Donald’s insistence that Laroche and Orlean’s relationship does not end where the book ends, him and Charlie follow Orlean to Florida to catch her and Laroche in the act. Without really spoiling anything, what follows is just unexpected fun. I would say that it is the part of the movie that was definitely penned by “Donald” with suspense, action, and tragedy are all mixed into it.

After first pairing up for the 1999 film, Being John Malkovich, it seems impossible that any director other than Spike Jonze would have been able to pull off Adaptation (the unofficial sequel), other than Kaufman himself, of course. With Kaufman’s personal and hysterical pen and Jonze’s keen vision for bizarre and human stories, Adaptation is a classic. Period.

And for the 20th anniversary of the picture, a nice new 4K copy is now available courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

5/5 stars


Adaptation (2002)

4k details divider

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray Edition

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- December 6, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English; English SDH; French; German; Italian; Portuguese; Spanish; Arabic; Danish; Dutch; Korean; Mandarin; Norwegian; Polish; Swedish; Turkish
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; German: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: 4K region-free; blu-ray locked to Region A

Director Spike Jonze delivers a stunningly original comedy that seamlessly blends fictional characters and situations with the lives of real people: obsessive orchid hunter John Laroche (Cooper), New Yorker journalist Susan Orlean (Streep), Hollywood screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Cage), and his twin brother, Donald (also Cage). As Charlie struggles to adapt Orlean's best-selling book "The Orchid Thief," he writes himself into his own movie. The various stories crash into one another exploding into a wildly imaginative film. Adaptation, the year's most talked about movie, is at once a hilarious drama and a moving comedy.


Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:35:1, the 2160p Ultra High-Definition restoration gives a great new life to this cult classic. The fine details of large beads of sweat dripping off of Cage’s face and even the soft lines on the flower of the mystical ghost orchid can all be seen with an impressive clarity. Both the film grain and the color are balanced well to give a nice, natural look to the film. Overall, a great transfer.


Though not a film that necessarily requires it, the Dolby Atmos track offers a great depth for audiences to enjoy with a full immersion. To the rambling thoughts of our neurotic protagonist to the score and to the rest of the elements of the dialogue-ridden film, everything comes in clean and clear. All around a solid audio track.


On this release, the special features are scarce but nonetheless a delightful treat for fans of the movie who are dying to get a sneak peek at Donald Kaufman’s much anticipated thriller. There’s also a quick little look at the dangers of shooting in a swamp that is nothing less than hilarious.


  • None

Special Features:

  • Behind the Scenes in the Swamp;
  • Theatrical Trailers

4k rating divider

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars

Film Details

Adaptation (2002)

MPAA Rating: R.
115 mins
: Spike Jonze
Charlie Kaufman
Nicolas Cage; Meryl Streep; Chris Cooper
: Comedy | Drama
This Christmas there will be... Misery.
Memorable Movie Quote: "From the creator of Being John Malkovich, comes the story about the creator of Being John Malkovich."
Theatrical Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 14, 2003.
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 6, 2023.
Synopsis: Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is hired to adapt "The Orchid Thief," a nonfiction book by Susan Orlean about an eccentric orchid breeder, John Laroche, but he becomes completely blocked. Meanwhile, Charlie's happy-go-lucky twin brother, Donald, dashes off a potboiler thriller based on multiple personality disorder. As Charlie continues to struggle, we see Laroche and Orlean in flashbacks, but past and present converge, as Charlie "writes himself" into his screenplay, and he and Donald begin to collaborate.


Adaptation (2002)