Blog Response – Adaptation (ENGL329B)

1. The Orchid Thief is a book that was adapted from an article written by Susan Orlean for The New Yorker magazine. The book is essentially a book adaptation of the article, and it expounds upon what was a succinct investigation into John Laroche’s orchid thievery and fiery passions. The book is more an examination of the neutral “passion,” with John Laroche, his compatriots, and the orchids being marginal details to the greater message. It is somewhat ironic that this book was born of a The New Yorker article, as this magazine is known for its sprawling messages and eclectic topics, which seem to flirt with the issues as opposed to exciting any sort of passion.

2. Adaptation is a movie about the creative process of Hollywood that starts Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep. The movie is full of subtle ironies (deus ex machina, Kaufman’s process, etc.) and the cinematography is unflinching. The movie does not revel in the sexual or the grotesque, but scenes involving violence are horrifying and unapologetically brutal, and the sexual activity in the movie is more of a thing that occurs as part of the story, and not made more gratuitous than need be.

3. The adaptation of the film (within the film) follows the guidelines Hollywood has for such movies. This is discussed throughout the entire film, and is actually what the film is about, behind the superficially apparent story. Nicolas Cage’s characters exist within the story Nicolas Cage’s characters are working on, and within the meta film that exists that tries to convey the process of writing a screenplay. The Orchid Thief, with its flowing language and large amount of speculations and inferences, is said to be “unfilmable,” and that aspect alone made the crew want to utilize its existence as the basis for the film. On the whole, however, the adaptation is not truly faithful, as it (ironically) follows the Hollywood screenwriting process for making a successful adaptation.


This article analyzes the movie, but makes a very interesting musing about the allure of John Laroche. It states the he is “fascinated,” not by anything, but just plain “fascinated.” This explains Susan Orlean’s interest in his person, as he is not necessarily interesting as an orchid thief, but as someone who is “fascinated.” While it does not really explain the meta film narrative of the movie, it does provide some insight into why the book was so “unfilmable.”

This review brings up an interesting alter-casting scheme where the Kaufman brothers are played by an unknown actor (as if Meryl Streep would be expected to go along with that).

The last paragraph of this article talks about the film, in line with Hollywood protocol, answering questions as opposed to asking them, which raises the point that maybe that’s the point of film.

5. The reaction of Charlie Kaufman when Donald tells him that he sold “The 3” for potentially 1.5 million dollars reveals more of his intentions than any of his musings throughout the film. The movie is ostensibly about Charlie’s difficulties to create a script, his motivations are secondary and not really discussed. But when he pauses after Donald’s revelation, the viewer can see his entire demeanor change to that of acquiescence to Donald’s subscription to the Hollywood process, the same process that Charlie previously railed against when confronted by Donald and the development of his script. It cannot be purely coincidental that Charlie overcomes his writer’s block and comes up with a textbook ending to his screenplay when he hears the news of big money coming to Donald. This reveals that Charlie’s process is not derived from a love of producing art (which would be the case if he were a creator of “high art”) but from his love of large quantities of cash.


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