• Publication date: April 19, 2009

Neurosis and Desire A Screenwriter Writes the Way He Lives

Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, struggles to write something original and unique in an age when Hollywood seems only to be spewing out regular formulaic film plots. He faces greater difficulty in doing this when he is hired by a major motion picture studio to do the seemingly impossible task of adapting Susan Orlean�s nonfiction book on Orchids into a Hollywood blockbuster.

Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, struggles to write something original and unique in an age when Hollywood seems only to be spewing out regular formulaic film plots. He faces greater difficulty in doing this when he is hired by a major motion picture studio to do the seemingly impossible task of adapting Susan Orlean�s nonfiction book on Orchids into a Hollywood blockbuster.

If his past screenplay was a transport into the mind of star actor, John Malkovich, this film transports us into his own neurosis. Kaufman is self-obsessed to the point that he puts himself into his own adaptation by characterizing himself and his state on screen. He anxiously tries to tie in theories of evolution by means of erratic images and thoughts to serve as the introduction of his new film, which is the introduction of Adaptation.

Things are surreal and perhaps all too real at the same time. Kaufman�s characters seem to be locked into a state of just being with little development or action; reflecting Kaufman�s own desires for an entirely new film format where nothing happens, and more so where characters have no motives or desires.

Orleans, the writer of the The Orchid Thief, reflects this state towards the beginning when we are transported three years earlier to her encounters with John Laroche, flower poacher turned good. She initially labels Laroche�s endeavors as having delusions of grandeur, but later expresses in her book how she wishes for a passion similar to his.

Donald, Kaufman�s fictitious on-screen twin brother, is the antithesis of all the idleness and apathy Charlie�s in. He conforms to the Hollywood formula that all characters abide by desire. He goes through change quickly by giving up on �get-rich-quick-schemes� and decides to write a screenplay like his brother. Ironically it is Donald�s clich� psychological thriller that will be transformed into a feature film before Charlie finds the track of his own story. What�s even more ironic, Charlie goes to Donald for advice on his static script, and it is Donald who gets things moving unto the blockbuster path.

Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) directs us through this comedy-drama satire adaptation attempt written by Charlie Kaufman. It is self-referential in that it is about an actual attempt to adapt a real book by New Yorker writer Susan Orleans. It alludes to the state the screenwriter was in through the process, and this is all evident within the course of the film.

The film was nominated for several academy awards. Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep were both nominated for awards. Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, making Donald Kaufman the first fictitious person to be nominated for an academy. Chris Cooper picked up an award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Cast

Nicholas Cage � Charlie Kaufman/Donald Kaufman

Meryl Streep � Susan Orleans

Chris Cooper � John Laroche

Tilda Swinton � Valerie Thomas

Cara Seymour � Amelia Kavan

Brian Cox � Robert McKee

Rated R for language, sexuality, some drug and violent images

Running time: 114 mins