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     This new film by the creative team of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman who brought us Being John Malkovich has been eagerly awaited.  While it is totally different than its predecessor, Adaptation is equally subversive.  It tells the story of the book, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep).  The thief, John Laroche (Chris Cooper) steals orchids from a Florida State Park so that he can raise and sell them.  Orlean is also shown in the movie as she interviews Laroche. The big twist is that the screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman (Nicholas Cage), who  adapted the book for the movie, has written himself into the movie.  Also in the mix is Charlie's identical twin brother, Donald (also Nicholas Cage) who is a bit of a screw-up but is following his brother's footsteps into screenwriting.  So, Adaptation tells the story of Kaufman writing the screenplay for Adaptation. This is about as circular as getting into John Malkovich's brain and being John Malkovich.

     Adaptation can be enjoyed simply by watching the story presented, but full enjoyment comes from understanding that this film is a joke within a joke within a joke.  Adaptation mixes fact and fiction much like Being John Malkovich where a real person is portrayed leading a fictitious life.  In Adaptation, Nicholas Cage portrays Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter for Adaptation as he writes the screenplay that we are seeing.  Meryl Streep plays the real New Yorker writer, Susan Orlean whose non-fiction book Kaufman is adapting.  Chris Cooper plays the actual Orchid Thief, John Laroche.  As the film begins, Cage, Streep and Cooper seem to be playing characters very close to their real counterparts. In fact, if you read the first few pages of The Orchid Thief, Laroche and his life are exactly as presented in the film, right down to his missing teeth. But slowly, as the film unfolds, we leave reality further and further behind.  Cage goes quietly mad as he watches his fictitious twin brother become a successful screenwriter while he suffers from writer's block.  His brother is his alter ego, everything that Kaufman would like to be.  Streep is portrayed, at first, as a writer researching a story but then gets caught up in a life of crime and illicit affairs.  Orlean must have been a really good sport to let her life be presented like this.  The characters of Kaufman, Orlean and Laroche slowy evolve into action heroes and villains. And it's very funny to watch. 

      A large part of the enjoyment of watching Adaptation is provided by the amazing performances by Cage, Streep and Cooper.  Cage is fantastic, as are the special effects showing him playing so many scenes with himself.  For decades, movies have shown the same actor playing two characters in the same scene.  But the special effect in Adaptation is completely seamless.  You notice it at first, of course, but after a couple of scenes you just accept the two characters and don't even think about the special effect.  Credit for this is due to Cage who creates two characters so different that you don't even think of them as being played by the same actor.  Streep is always great but it's nice to see her back in top form. And, this may be the breakout role for Chris Cooper.  He has been around for years in such films as Lone Star, The Horse Whisperer, October Sky, and American Beauty.  He is a great character actor and he plays the role of Laroche with such happy abandon that you can't help liking this unlikeable character with the busted teeth.

     You've got to see this movie. Jonz and Kaufmann are creating a whole new genre of films that stimulate and entertain at the same time.  This movie will be around at Oscar time.