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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • 3 Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Filmographies
  • Dolby Digital trailer


Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 110 mins . MA15+ . PAL


To begin, to begin… How to start?

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This time for sure...

Charlie Kaufman (Nic Cage) is a screenwriter - a neurotic, panic-ridden, hypochondriac who suffers from that malaise which affects so many of us; he thinks too much. This is fine if you’re of an Einsteinian bent, assembling rockets, widgets, gadgets and such useful things in your mind, however when it’s just waves of self doubt with lashings of flotsam and jetsam such as self loathing and offering yourself trivial challenges for that last muffin swirling about then it is anything but a godsend. While his twin brother Donald (also Nic Cage) merrily farts out a well-recieved but cliché-ridden thriller script with remarkable ease, Charlie is stricken by a writer’s block that makes the Empire State Building look like a mere speed hump in comparison. His task is to adapt The Orchid Thief, a novel spurned from an article for The New Yorker by one Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) about a curiously obsessive, dentally challenged botanist type of guy named John Laroche (Chris Cooper in an Oscar nabbing role), for the cinema. Just the tip of the iceberg problem-wise is that it’s basically a book about flowers – there’s little in the way of actual story or emotional depth, two somewhat necessitous prerequisites for a film.

With pressure mounting to deliver something, Charlie is determined to avoid the formulaic Hollywood clichés – your sex, guns, car chases, profound life lessons, two people growing to love each other, overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end blahblahblah – and in his search for substance gradually finds himself becoming a somewhat narcissistic part of his own screenplay. His ever more consuming obsession and desperation with his task sees him turning more to thoughts – and basic stalking - of Orlean herself, who is busily ensconced within her own search for some sort of meaning to life, while a certain air of self-fulfilling prophecy comes into play…

"Writing is a journey into the unknown…"

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I'm seeing double - FOUR Nic Cages!

As many will already know, Charlie Kaufman is the real-life scriptwriter behind one of the greatest films of the past few years, the glorious head bonk Being John Malkovich. Just one of the many fascinating aspects of his script for Adaptation is how it wends a tale involving fact, fiction and fancy to the point where the viewer is left uncertain as to what is real and what isn’t. These things we can be certain of - Charlie’s real, his brother isn’t (although he receives co-screenwriting credit here just to confuse things); Susan Orlean is real, as is her book; and indeed Kaufman’s task of turning The Orchid Thief into a viable script is also an acknowledged fact. After this it’s all conjecture, as we bounce throughout time like we’re stuck in a WABAC machine that’s seriously skew-whiff and visit many themes familiar to all of us, given playful and tricky twists whilst avoiding any voyages into the world of the surreal. Yet as much as it all may sound like a massive hodgepodge, somehow there is a lucidity at work which is quite astounding.

Nicolas Cage is at his brilliant best in his dual roles, whilst those around him – most notably a rather creepy yet curiously engaging Chris Cooper – deliver the depth needed to carry off the challenging mass of ideas which make up Adaptation’s script. Renowned music video director Spike Jonze continues his somewhat off-kilter sortie into filmic territory with the aplomb that saw him justifiably lauded for Malkovich, and in all it’s safe to say you will never have experienced a film anything remotely like this ever before.


Released as one of those much over-hyped ‘Superbit’ releases overseas, it appears we may have received the very same thing transfer-wise – but without the over-inflated price tag. A very good 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer is on offer, with very little in the way of niggles.

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Birds do it, bees do it...

What is striking about Adaptation visually is the variance in colour throughout – some scenes look almost over de-saturated, whilst many of the shots of nature and general out-of-the-cloud-of-Kaufman scenes exhibit quite a joyous vibrancy. Detail is very good, despite noticeable washes of grain in various places, with the many dark scenes for the most part coming up as clearly as seems possible. What is a little disappointing is the amount of miniscule specks and flecks which crop up from time to time, although they are so tiny that many won’t even notice them.

The layer change could not be better, in fact it could not be spotted – much like that in Panic Room, which was also a ‘Superbit’ transfer. It does beg the question though, if they can make the things invisible, then why aren’t they always invisible?


We miss out on a DTS mix in region 4; however the Dolby Digital 5.1 track we’re given could not have much more asked from it. Save for the very occasional noisy outbreak, this is a quiet, talky film, so as such the front speakers bare the brunt of most which goes on, and they do it with often delightful use of the left to right spectrum. This isn’t to say that the rears aren’t utilised – they are actually used quite deftly but subtly, with Charlie’s inner musings engulfing the room and the ambience of the swamps encircling the listener. Meanwhile, subwoofwoof action is minimal, save for a couple of jolts here and there and all is synched to perfection.

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All I want for Christmas...

Carter Burwell’s score is so innocuous as to not call attention to itself, although it would surely be conspicuous by its absence. For a pleasant change there aren’t oodles of blipvert-sized snippets of pop songs in order to pad out a soundtrack CD, with the only really prominent pop song being The Turtles’ swingin’ Happy Together.


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If you had any doubts as to this disc’s ‘Superbit’ pedigree, they should be dispelled once going on a trek for extra features – for there’s little on offer. The main menu is quite wonderful - looking for all intents and purposes static until closer inspection (shiny ant!) – and from here there are merely some filmographies (Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman, Susan Orlean, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper), a selection of theatrical trailers (Adaptation (2:21), Maid in Manhattan (2:21 and why on Earth is it here?!), the stress-inducing Punch Drunk Love (also 2:21) and Sunshine State (2:08)). Rounding things out is the one thing of note we get which region 1 doesn’t – a Featurette. Before you get excited though, Behind the Scenes in the Swamp runs for a measly 2:03, and despite its snappy editing and intriguing choice of audio accompaniment is pretty much gone before it has any chance to register anywhere resembling the synapses. If you're desperate you may also count the Dolby Digital City trailer as an extra...


The title is just one of the many themes interwoven into Adaptation - essentially figuring out how to thrive in the world – a film like no other ever before. If it were a book you could describe it as un-put-downable – it’s most definitely out there, yet never to the point of unreality like Being John Malkovich, welding a certain complex, twisty, multi-tiered story with a healthy sense of fun and a smorgasbord of themes which will be familiar to anybody with a pulse.

As for this DVD release, the vision is very good, while little more could be asked for from the audio. If you’re an extras-junkie, however, you’ll be left sobbing into your muffin.

Oh, and did you know the orchid is basically named after a testicle?

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      And I quote...
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