Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 2002. Beverly Detroit, Clinica Estetico, Good Machine, Intermedia, Magnet Productions, Propaganda Films. Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman, based on the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Cinematography by Lance Acord. Produced by Jonathan Demme, Vincent Landay, Edward Saxon. Music by Carter Burwell. Production Design by K.K. Barrett. Costume Design by Casey Storm. Film Editing by Eric Zumbrunnen.
For writer Charlie Kaufman, the line between reality and fiction is a blurry, obscure dream that often escapes his grasp; his contribution to Spike Jonze’s latest comedy demonstrates this in the most clever and original ways possible. Originally hired to adapt Susan Orlean’s bestselling book The Orchid Thief, a non-fiction study of orchid enthusiast John Laroche, Kaufman has written a screenplay that uses material from the original novel and then depicts the process of actually adapting it to the screen.
Nicolas Cage is astounding as both Kaufman and his fictional twin brother Donald, who share DNA and a script-writing career but otherwise seem to have not one thing in common. Charlie is chubby and bald, a self-loathing loner who sweats profusely when women speak to him and lies awake night after night wondering how to adapt this book about the love of flowers to the screen without compromising its beauty. Donald, on the other hand, writes blockbuster thrillers and is a self-confident ladies’ man.
Meryl Streep shines as Orlean, whom we learn about in flashback scenes from the novel as well as in loosely fictional glimpses of her present day life following the success of the book. Chris Cooper has his best film role yet as Laroche, whose passion for orchids inspires Orlean to long for an obsession of her own (the scene where her newfound passion reaches a poignant climax in the Florida everglades is one of the film’s most brilliant moments).
Also featuring inspired supporting turns by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton and Judy Greer, this is not as delightfully quirky as Jonze’s also marvelous Being John Malkovich, but it features some quietly lyrical passages that make it exceptional.
Academy Award: Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper)
Nominations: Best Actor (Nicolas Cage); Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep); Best Adapted Screenplay
Berlin Film Festival Award: Jury Grand Prix
Golden Globe Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper); Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep); Best Screenplay
Nominations: Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Nicolas Cage); Best Director (Spike Jonze)
Screen Actors Guild Award Nominations: Outstanding Motion Picture Cast; Best Actor (Nicolas Cage); Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper)