A love-lorn script writer grows increasingly desperate in his quest to adapt the book 'The Orchid Thief'.
As in their previous collaboration, "Being John Malkovich," Spike Jonze and the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman concoct an intricate, scrambled parallel universe populated by anxious, itchy people, some appearing really to exist. The hero is Mr. Kaufman himself (Nicolas Cage), a screenwriter struggling to adapt "The Orchid Thief," Susan Orlean's nonfiction meditation on flowers, obsession and Darwinian theory. He is tormented by writer's block and by his twin brother, Donald (also Mr. Cage), an aspiring screenwriter and all-around doofus in his own right. Their sibling rivalry, which is also a metaphor for the pains of creativity, is interspersed with something that looks like an actual adaptation of "The Orchid Thief," in which Ms. Orlean (Meryl Streep) finds herself drawn to a scruffy renegade botanist named John Laroche (Chris Cooper). Then the plots overlap, collide and explode in a conclusion that is at once maddening, troubling and oddly moving. This is a remarkable, impossible movie — about itself but also about its own nonexistence — and one of the most formally audacious, intellectually charged American movies in quite some time. — A. O. Scott
2002-12-06 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Adaptation