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Steven Spielberg's new film starring Meryl Streep
and Tom Hanks hits US theaters on December 22 2017.
  April 29th, 2012       Posted by Frederik       Display Comments

The movie of the week comes a day earlier this time and will be covered on Sundays from now on. This week it’s “Adaptation”, an important role in Meryl’s career since it literally gave her on-screen legacy a second prime in 2002 – and a thirteenth Oscar nomination. The image library has been updated with DVD screencaptures, three new clips have been added to the video archive (trailers and interviews have been re-added in better quality). As always, production notes and review below. Please let me know what you think of “Adaptation” in the comments.

Production Notes
In 1999, just as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich was being brought to the screen by director Spike Jonze, he had been commissioned by Jonathan Demme and his producing partner Ed Saxon, to adapt New Yorker writer Susan Orlean’s best-selling non-fiction book The Orchid Thief. The book is a widely praised tale of a journalist who discovers the roots of her own passion while chronicling the adventures of John Laroche, a man who is obsessed with his love for rare orchids. “I remember being cocky and thinking, yeah, I like this. I can turn this into a movie.” However, when he was unable to conceive of a suitable way to shape the material into a narrative screenplay, his self-confidence soon turned into depression. Throughout the torturous process, Kaufman remained steadfast in his commitment of finding a way to address the theme of passion. Kaufman took a radical approach to adapting The Orchid Thief. Producer Ed Saxon was suspicious when receiving the first draft. “That wasn’t the title of the book we had optioned. And then it said ‘written by Charlie and Donald Kaufman.’ And I thought, ‘who is Donald Kaufman? I didn’t know he was going to be writing with a partner.’ But, once I started reading the script, it clicked. I was stunned and amazed by how intricately woven it was.”

After Susan Orlean read the script, she was almost speechless. Kaufman had taken her journey and combined it with his own, crossing the border from fact into fiction. “I thought the script was completely strange and yet, wonderful. When I read the sections about the Susan Orlean character, I was absolutely convinced that Charlie Kaufman had indeed come to New York and secretly followed me around, studying me,” she says. “By and large the character is quite different from me. But the initial portrait of me as a writer contained certain details that were startlingly accurate. But the important thing is that, in the end, this was the perfect thing to have happened to this book.” For the casting of Susan Orlean, Jonze imagined Meryl Streep, reasoning that it would take an actress of her talent and caliber to capture the subtleties in the script, which not only looked at the creative process of researching and writing The Orchid Thief, but also at how Orlean’s exploration of John Laroche’s passion for orchids unleashed her own hidden passions. The more Jonze thought about Streep, the more he realized, “it was a pipe dream,” he confesses. But Streep responded enthusiastically to the script. “It was simply one of the best screenplays I’d ever read,” she says. “There was no other script like it. So, I had to say yes.” Having seen Kaufman and Jonze’s previous collaboration, she was prepared for their unorthodox approach to filmmaking. “The sensibility of Being John Malkovich definitely resides in Adaptation,” she adds. “It’s obvious that they both sprang from the same brain.” As for Jonze, she continues, “he was inventive, sure, unfailingly sensitive and very well prepared. I truly enjoyed making this movie ­ except for the parts where I was waist deep in a swamp.”

My first of impression of Meryl was that she had an incredible sense of humor. We were doing our first scene together, which awkwardly was a love scene; before even hello, she dropped a condom on me. We both have a tendency to laugh out loud while shooting. I also thought she was sexy. I think what makes Meryl a great actress is that her instrument is so liquid; everything flows without sharp edges or unintentionally abrupt changes. I remember her going through some transformation to get into a scene, and I saw a very beautiful process of shape-shifting that brought her to the point she intended. I was deeply impressed. (Nicolas Cage, The Hollywood Reporter, June 2004)

In preparing for the role, Streep chose to rely on Kaufman’s character, a composite of the actual New Yorker writer and his own fictional musings. “The first time I met Susan Orlean was at the screening of the finished film,” says Streep. “I asked for her forgiveness and understanding for the liberties we took with her name and reputation. And she said, ‘Oh! That’s okay. I wish I were Susan Orlean!’ I’m a great admirer of her work and I do think parts of it reside in this film, but I’m not sure I can say the same about the character bearing her name.” Adaptation released US theaters in December 2002, and became a suprise hit with critics and moviegoers alike. In 2003, it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper won Golden Globes as Best Supporting Actress and Actor, respectively. And while Meryl received her thirteenth Academy Award nomination for portraying Susan Orlean, Chris Cooper won the Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor category for playing John Laroche.

Frederik’s Review

“Adaptation” has been often mentioned as Meryl Streep’s comeback to feature films. While it has been two years between her past project and “Adaptation”, I feel the “comeback” is meant more for the power of her performance. During the late 1990s, Meryl has portrayed an array of women past their prime – like every other actress her age. In “Adaptation”, the character of Susan Orlean in the beginning feels like the way we imagine Meryl Streep. Succesful in her job, happy in her life, polite but private. Then the character peels like an onion, Susan transforms through her meetings with John Laroche and ventures into bizarre territory. Throughout the film, she changes her life, she does drugs, sex and want to have people killed. It’s a role unlike anything moviegoers have seen Meryl do. Therefore, it’s a well-deserved triumph. The film, surprisingly, I didn’t enjoy. It didn’t click with me the first time I saw it – most of the film centers around the two Nicolas Cage characters, the various people in their lives – I found none of it especially interesting. The Orlean/Laroche storyline is the definite interesting part of the film. Since “Adaptation” has been praised so much, I of course re-watched it to see if I’ve been missing the greatness, but for me it simply didn’t work, too wild for my taste. But still worth a recommendation to everyone who wants to see a film away from the usual mainstream.

  • Izzu

    I think it is the most erotic movie I’ve ever seen, the scene, when Laroche talks about bees and how they making love to the flowers it is just brilliant!

  • Jane

    When I first saw this movie I thought it was absolutely weird and though I still don’t feel that it’s a movie I would watch every two weeks I love it for throwing something different at the viewer. It transcends the boundaries of what you’re used to and I think that’s valuable.
    The acting of course was phenomenal. In my opinion Meryl managed to raise the bar of her own standard in this one. Her performance was incredibly nuanced and subtle yet extremely powerful and playful. I love how open she is and how willing to reveal it all.
    This performance absolutely stands out, even in a career like hers.

  • Manuel

    I liked the movie a lot and saw it several times; each time revealed new subtleties. An ‘intellectual’ movie, certainly, but not void of emotional flesh thanks to its actors. I found all of them to be pitch-perfect. As for Streep, I have to confess that I think that this is one of the few movies where here acting genius was paralleled by the fellow movie-makers. Thumbs up!

  • Jos Clark

    I really enjoyed this film I believe Meryl was very smart to work with the young director at this time in her career. Her part was fun and quirky I think what makes Meryl so great is she becomes that person and makes sure we really get to see and understand the character she plays by adding her own touches.
    Chris and Nick were also amazing
    If you haven’t seen this movie its a must !

  • Dante

    Mixing Reality with Fiction: My Review and Comments on “Adaptation”

    Among all of the Meryl Streep films I have watched and grew up with, I honestly think and feel that ‘Adaptation’ is pure perfection. Thanks to the imaginative process infused by the Charlie Kaufman in his screenplay and the unrivaled comeback performance of Meryl Streep. I have an original copy of the film and its book. And whenever I watch the film, my favorite scene was Meryl’s loneliness, instrospection and contemplation about wanting something – the essence and existence of passion and how it is mirrored to John Laroche’s unending pursuit of the Ghost Orchid – and the sceen when she had dinner with her friends and she overheard what they said when she was in the rest room. I mean that reaction – we all have those kind of moments and feelings in our lives, wherein people misunderstood you when they say things behind your back. Another favorite scene of mine was Nic Cage’s character attending a screenwriting forum or seminar and the speaker said something like, “There’s so much things happening in the world.” With that scene, you could really feel the writer’s block of the real Charlie Kaufman and how the character Charlie and Donald Kaufman resolved the conflict of their predicament by going beyond in understanding the context in which the character Susan Orlean wrote the book and her unrevealed personal relationship with John Laroche.

    Taking all of these in mind, I’ll give this film 3 out of 4 stars. Simply perfect in writing and in acting.

  • c

    Agreeing with the other ones, I just can say no one should miss this movie – it is quite beautiful, and Meryl, as she is within every of her movies, is very great! Love this movie, she would has deserved the oscar for this increadable work in her carreer!

  • Laura

    This film isn’t easy to watch, it’s so intense that at points you’re clueless as to what is even happening. Saying that, it is definitely one of the best films I have seen, in terms of the writing especially; it’s just so clever. Meryl, as always, brings life and pure emotion to a character who if played by someone without her talents would have been written off within the first few moments of her appearing on screen. It’s nice to see her in such a different role to her 90’s work. Overall, I enjoyed this film, and Meryl’s performance especially.

    Thanks for all your work on this site Frederik!

  • Harry

    2002 was such a great year for Meryl Streep! With Adaptation and The Hours, she was at the summit of 2002 film industry. Well at least in my opinions. But it’s sad that she was snubbed of her many many many many well-deserved nominations and awards for both Adaptation and The Hours. OK. Back to the movie. I love this movie. It is strange yet subtle, beautiful and rich. Beautiful script and incredible performances all round! Meryl Streep’s performance is just sublime! True Meryl Streep fans should not miss out on this one!

  • lindi

    OMG, this movie is so great, when I saw it, I said to myself, gosh, this is thebrightest movie I´ve ever seen in my life, it is so dense, so intense, so bizarre, Meryl does such a gigantic job constructing Susan Orlean which suffers all this transformations. I totally think that Frederick´s review is so accured but my chest almost burst when themovie finished and with happy together, that was the touch to make it a masterpiece, don´t get me wrong the whole thing is a masterpiece, besides Nicholas Cage acted like a God, Chris Cooper was so intense, so, so funny and the thinh Brian A. Cox as Bob Mckee to Kaufman, you got and ending, you got a script, he was so right

  • Sonja

    The film is simply a masterpiece.
    I adore it, of course especially Meryl in this.
    She was perfect. She was cool, intelligent, funny, sexy, hilarious while high on Orchid dust and a real hysterical psycho in the end.
    If you haven’t watch this movie yet, do it asap.
    Everyone was great, even Cage.
    It had BP material, but was NOT nominated for BP. A true shame imo.
    And I stull can’t understand why Meryl was campaigned “supporting”. She’s leading, period. But maybe the lead group was too packed and they thought she had a better shot at supporting.
    Although I really don’t mind that CZJ won that year…. I still wish Meryl would have won. It would have been perfect.

  • ila

    I would agree with you Frederik: the movie is quite odd and yet interesting for its editing and storyline…but meryl and chris are wonderful in it!