A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie has very mature material, including very strong language, brief nudity, sexual references and situations (including masturbation and a porn Web site), drinking, smoking, and drug use. The movie has quasi-comic violence, but characters are injured and killed. Characters break the law, including stealing from nature preserves and making psychotropic drugs.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Hired to adapt Susan Orlean's book The Orchid Thief for the screen, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) struggles with the project. His self-doubt, underscored by the contrast with his confident identical twin brother Donald (also played by Cage), becomes an almost insurmountable obstacle. The film also depicts the process that Orlean (Meryl Streep) goes through as she tries to write about John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a man utterly obsessed with rare orchids. Orlean gradually realizes that she's not just writing about Laroche or about orchids but about the nature of obsession itself. In a way, she becomes obsessed with obsession. Meanwhile, while Donald casually dashes off a ludicrous screenplay about a serial killer with multiple personalities, utterly unconcerned about issues like consistency, Charlie agonizes about the imperviousness of Orlean's book.
Is it any good?
Adaptation has some sharp Hollywood satire and some wildly funny plot twists. Like real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's other films (Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), it has moments of bizarre humor in the context of profound and genuine questions about identity, inversion, inspiration, obsession, and meaning and meta-meaning and meta-meta-meaning. This is the kind of movie that makes fun of emotional turning points inspired by platitudes but then, when it throws one in (in the middle of a jungle environment that is real and symbolic), it's a very nice one: "You are what you love, not what loves you."
The performances are marvelous, particularly Streep as Orlean and Cooper as Laroche. Ron Livingston's performance as Charlie's agent is a small comic gem, Brian Cox is masterful as a screenwriting expert, and Judy Greer is radiant as an orchid-loving, pie-serving waitress.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how we chose our passions - or whether they choose us. Do Laroche and Orlean envy each other? Does Charlie envy Donald? Why did Charlie the real-life screenwriter divide himself in two in the movie portrayal? Why did he take real-life characters like Susan Orlean and John Laroche and have their movie characters do things that they never did? What do you learn from Laroche's reason for not fixing his teeth? If you were going to re-create yourself as a movie character, what would you write? This movie both uses and makes fun of many movie conventions - which ones did you spot?
- In theaters: January 10, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: May 20, 2003
- Cast: Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage
- Director: Spike Jonze
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, sexuality, some drug use and violent images.
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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