Adaptation Movie Poster Image




Adult stuff only but hilarious and fresh.
  • Review Date: May 18, 2003
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2003
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know


Violence and peril, characters hurt and killed.


Explicit sexual references and situations.


Very strong language

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking, smoking, and drug use

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.

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 10, 2003
DVD release date:May 20, 2003
Cast:Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage
Director:Spike Jonze
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language, sexuality, some drug use and violent images.

This review of Adaptation was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008

Interesting, offbeat film not for kids

The end was a bit hokey, but the story until then was pretty interesting and engaging.
Kid, 11 years old April 9, 2008

A Great Writer's Movie

My favorite movie of all time. Great flick. See it.
Parent of a 4 and 9 year old Written bykvirgin April 9, 2008

Not for kids at all... the Violence should have scored a "RED"

the violence in this film is very graphic. Car accidents have strong suprise element and are designed to shock the viewer: they are very realistic. My husband and I still refer to it as one of the scariest things we've seen because it is so realistically violent: you felt you were there...


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement