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Talking To The Screen
Wednesday 1/22/03, 4:15 pm
AMC 25 Times Square

?Adaptation? has been conversely hailed as both one of the most innovative and most masturbatory film to come out of Hollywood in years. To be sure, both claims have merit.

Charlie Kaufman was asked to adapt ?The Orchid Theif? by Susan Orlean. By all accounts this book has no plot, and has no obvious story for a screenwriter to grip to in an adapting process. For this reason, it ended on Kaufman?s desk. With ?Being John Malkovich?, he had earned a reputation of being able to fashion an appealing script from outlandish basis.

?Adaptation? is supposedly based on ?The Orchid Theif? but the similarities are slight at best. ?Adaptation? tells the stories of Charlie Kaufman struggling with adapting an unadaptable book, Donald Kaufman, Charlie?s fictional brother, a screenwriter with blockheaded, pop appeal, Susan Orlean writing the story of an orchid thief, and the orchid thief himself, John Laroche. The snide adjective of ?masturbatory? comes from the fact that Charlie Kaufman writer, instead of writing about ?The Orchid Theif?, writes about himself and his worries and headaches.

Kaufman?s skill is what makes ?Adaptation? brilliant, self-aware and innovative. Charlie, the character, is rarely if ever portrayed in a sympathetic light. He?s a socially awkward neurotic, whose inner monologue is never actualized. He?s aware of the ?masturbatory? nature of his endeavor, and includes no less than three scenes of Charlie, the character, masturbating. The four storylines are delicately weaved together and folded back on themselves.

Kaufman took a big bite with ?Adaptation?, but he chewed it just fine. The script is masterful, intelligent (possibly too smart for some viewers), and innovative.

Charlie, the character, at one point says ?There hasn?t been a new genre since Fellini invented the mockumentary?. I wouldn?t go so far as to call ?Adaptation? the invention of a genre, but it certainly is unclassifiable. It would be most unfortunate to be exposed to a lesser writer?s attempt at an ?adaptation? script. The self service wouldn?t be balanced with care and intelligence.