Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Adaptation (2002)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Adaptation. (2002)

In Spike Jonz' brilliant but often bewildering, twisting and turning black comedy/drama, about a lovelorn, depressed, anxious and socially-isolated author struggling to "adapt" or write a screenplay:

  • the main character delivered an opening monologue (in voice-over) during the film's title credits displayed on a black screen (with white typewriter text) about his own untalented character and physical flaws: "Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head? Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliche...I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more, improve myself..."
  • the opening was followed by the sped-up scene of the evolutionary creation of the cosmos, life and man from Hollywood (from Four Billion And Forty Years Earlier) to the present concluding with the close-up of a childbirth
  • during the production of his latest movie Being John Malkovich, writer-blocked, LA screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) who was seated at his typewriter (with a blank page) spoke about rewarding himself with coffee and a muffin: ("I'm hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin...Maybe a banana nut. That's a good muffin")
  • the neurotic Charlie was accompanied by his freeloading, alter-ego, freeloading twin brother Donald Kaufman (Cage in a dual role) who also aspired to be a screenwriter; the two shared a home in Los Angeles; when Donald asked about "a cool way to kill people" for his own horror-thriller film script, he received a gruesome reply from Charlie: "The killer's a literature professor. He cuts off little chunks from his victim's bodies until they die. He calls himself 'The Deconstructionist'"
  • Charlie was filled with internal struggles, self-doubt, introspective neuroticism, and fear about his latest job when hired by Valerie Thomas (Tilda Swinton) - to adapt a New Yorker article ("The Orchid Thief") by writer Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep); Valerie had bought the movie rights before Orlean had actually written the book (it first appeared as an article in The New Yorker)
  • Charlie made the statement: "The only thing I'm actually qualified to write about is myself..."; using a hand-held tape recorder, he dictated a description of himself: ("Fat, bald Kaufman") while pursuing the elusive story; he became overwhelmed with the task of adapting the article and turning it into a film script, not wanting to write a typical Hollywood screenplay: "I don't wanna cram in sex or guns or car chases, you know, or characters, you know, learning profound life lessons. Or growing, or coming to like each other, or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end, you know? I mean. The book isn't like that and life isn't like that"
  • Donald then entered the room with his crassly-commercial spec script titled The 3 - a successful psychological thriller about a psychotic serial killer with multiple-personality disorder: ("He's actually really the cop and the girl. All of them are him. Isn't that f--ked up?"); the killer employed a slightly-modified cannibalistic technique: "Now the killer cuts off body pieces and makes his victims eat them" - forcing the distraught Charlie to believe himself insane for self-indulgently writing himself into his own screenplay
  • Charlie pursued and spied upon New Yorker author Susan Orlean of the non-fiction book The Orchard Thief while working on its movie adaptation; due to his nervousness, shyness and lack of courage, he was unable to personally meet and consult with Susan at her NY office
  • while in New York, Charlie attended a seminar presented by on-stage speaker and screenwriter expert Robert McKee (Brian Cox), who delivered advice about not using voice-overs in scripts - he gave an astounding reply to struggling screenwriter Charlie's question during the three-day lecture about how to "write a story where nothing much happens...more a reflection of the real world": ("...Are you out of your f--king mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every f--king day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save somebody else...")
  • later at a bar, McKee gave prophetic advice to Charlie about how to end a movie script: ("Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change and the change must come from them. Do that, and you'll be fine")

Susan Snorting the Mind Altering Ghost Orchid Drug

Susan's Phone Dial-Tone Duet with Laroche
  • Donald joined Charlie in New York, and they both became suspicious of the writer Susan; she snorted mind-altering, ghost-orchid flower extract and got high (while brushing her teeth) - and combined her voice in a phone dial-tone duet with orchid thief John Laroche (Best Supporting Actor-winner Chris Cooper), who had stolen the flowers from Seminole Indian land
  • in the film's thriller-ending, Charlie/Donald followed the adulterous Susan to Florida where she met up with her lover Larouche; both Charlie and Donald were hotly pursued in the Florida Everglades swamp - she wanted to kill the brothers for witnessing her drug habit and extra-marital affair; Donald offered profound words to Charlie while they hid behind a stump: "You are what you love, not what loves you"
  • after Donald was accidentally shot by Laroche, he 'died' when thrown through Charlie's car windshield (this extinguished Charlie's alter-ego forever, and gave him new confidence); Laroche was attacked and killed by an alligator, after which Susan madly exclaimed: "It's over. Everything's over. I did everything wrong. I want my life back. I want it back before it all got f--ked up. I want to be a baby again. I want to be new. I WANT TO BE NEW"; she was arrested by police

Amelia Kavan (Cara Seymour)

Final Scene

Sped-Up Time Lapse
  • once Charlie's writer's block was overcome, he openly admitted his feelings for pretty ex-dating partner Amelia Kavan (Cara Seymour) and kissed her (with her own confession: "I love you, too, you know") - while simultaneously, he also discovered how to finally end his script: ("I have to go right home. I know how to finish the script now. It ends with Kaufman driving home after his lunch with Amelia, thinking he knows how to finish the script..."); this was accompanied by the upbeat playing of the Turtles' song "Happy Together" - and a sped-up time lapse photograph of flowers and an LA street over a period of several days

Evolutionary Creation of Cosmos

Charlie Kaufman with Writer's Block

Alter-Egos/Twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman

Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief Non-Fiction Book

McKee's Lecture About Voice-Overs

Pursuit in Florida Everlades

"You are what you love, not what loves you"

Donald "Killed"


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