Adaptation. (2002)

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Released 24-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Behind the Scenes in the Swamp
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Maid In Manhattan; Punch-Drunk Love; Sunshine State
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 110:26
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Spike Jonze

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Nicolas Cage
Meryl Streep
Chris Cooper
Tilda Swinton
Cara Seymour
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Carter Burwell

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), the real-life writer of that quirky tale Being John Malkovich, is having a hard time adapting a book about flowers – Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief – for a screenplay. Indeed, it’s driving him slowly insane. The result? One of the funniest films of last year: Adaptation..

    Those of you who took delight in the way in which the script writing of Kevin Williamson parodied the horror genre in Scream will find the humour in many of the self-referential jokes present here, only Adaptation. is not merely mocking one genre, but the entire Hollywood script writing process. We have the ‘artistic’ and ‘off-beat’ writer Charlie Kaufman trying to adapt this book about flowers while living with his twin brother Donald Kaufman (also played by Cage) who is trying to write a commercially successful screenplay after taking a writing seminar by Robert McKee (a real life script-writing self-help guru, and author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, played here by Brian Cox). Charlie is avid that he will stay true to the essence of Orlean’s book, without sensationalising it and turning it into a Hollywood movie. Donald is using every cliché in the writing process to produce a Hollywood hit. However, the more Charlie tries to stay true to the essence of the book and avoid the Hollywood clichés, the more he struggles to get anywhere at all.

    Directed by Spike Jonze, this is a far superior film to his debut directing feature Being John Malkovich. Where his previous film relied a little too much on quirkiness, and could at times be just plain weird, Adaptation. is right on the ball. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman unashamedly portrays himself as an awkward loser, and uses every self-referential gag that he can to keep the humour rolling. This is no slapstick, with in-your-face humour – you really have to pay attention to get many of the more subtle jokes. And those who have difficulty following a non-linear plot line should stay away; this is a very structured piece, jumping time-lines back and forth all over the place, switching between reality and fantasy, screenplay and finished film.

    For the actor’s parts, Cage is excellent in both of his roles, the awkward Charlie and the more outgoing Donald, and Meryl Streep is great as Susan Orlean. However, it is Chris Cooper who is the real stand-out here, doing fantastic work as the toothless John LaRoche, the orchid thief. And Brian Cox is perfect as the vitriolic and foul-mouthed Robert McKee, with his few brief scenes and some perfectly timed lines.

    If you want a thinking person’s comedy, with more in-jokes than you can keep up with, and which you will be talking about over coffee with your friends for a couple of weeks afterwards, Adaptation. is the way to go. For those of you who have already seen this, it really does reward repeat viewings, as a lot of the more subtle subtext becomes apparent the second time through, especially some of those in-jokes you may have missed the first time around.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is the original aspect ratio.

    When I saw Adaptation. at the cinema, I noticed how grainy the print was then. This grain is present in the DVD transfer, but it is not a fault of the transfer process. Much of this was largely an intentional choice by the director. There is even one scene which is so grainy it is almost impossible to initially distinguish what is happening (14:13), but even this was present in the theatrical print, and was done as a special effect. The only really grainy shot which is out of place is a night time shot in Susan’s office at 26:04, which was probably more a product of bad lighting.

    For the rest, shadow detail is pretty good, although not exceptional. The daylight shots are crisp and clear, unless intentional softening is used for effect.

    Colours are mixed, again as a result of using different techniques to film various sequences. In some sequences the colours are rich and full, so glaringly vibrant as to stand out. In other sequences, colours are dull and lifeless, or artificially washed out. Because this differentiation helps discern time periods, and what is reality and what is fantasy, nothing much should be thought of them.

    There is a bit of dirt on the print, but nothing too distracting.

    MPEG artefacts are virtually non-existent, but I did notice some moire on Susan’s polka-dot shirt, which she stubbornly wears several times during the film. For examples of this, see: 19:03 and from 79:54 to 82:15.

    There is a set of subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired. They are white with a grey border, clear and easy to read, and generally convey the story, using italics for Charlie’s voice-overs.

    The dual-layer pause is at 70:49, which is at the end of a scene. It is noticeable, but not too distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio track; an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand throughout, which is very important given that this film is almost entirely dialogue driven. Also excellent was the use of voice-over, which is something that is so often done poorly. There were no audio sync problems I could detect.

    The range was very good, with Carter Burwell’s oft-quirky and sometimes heartfelt score well rendered.

    Surround use was not often necessary, given that a lot of this film seems to take place inside Charlie’s head via voice-over while in his bedroom where he writes. However, when Charlie goes to parties and to New York there is ample surround activity, and the various sequences in the Florida swamps were buzzing with ambience.

    The subwoofer was used to flesh out the music, and was used to full effect in the occasional car crash and the ‘dawn of time’ sequence.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced, static with the theme music in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

Dolby Digital Trailer

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, this is that Dolby City trailer. I really don’t like this one.

Featurette - “Behind The Scenes In The Swamp” (2:03)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo audio. This is a bit of a send up, where the principal crew are wandering around the swamp dressed in full suit and tie with waders. There is also some other cute behind the scenes footage from the final sequence. It’s cute and quirky, albeit very brief.

“Adaptation” Theatrical Trailer (2:21)

    Presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

“Maid In Manhattan” Theatrical Trailer (2:21)

    Presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

“Punch Drunk Love” Theatrical Trailer (2:21)

    Presented in 2.40:1, 16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. Don’t watch this trailer, just go and see the film. The film – the latest from the immensely talented writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson – is great, but the trailer gives far too much away.

“Sunshine State” Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

    Presented in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.


    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, no sound. These are a series of stills with selected filmographies of the principal cast and crew. Interestingly enough, there is a listing for Donald Kaufman, Charlie Kaufman’s alter ego, listing Adaptation. (2002) and The 3 (2004), which is the clichéd commercial film Donald is working on in Adapatation. See what I mean about in-jokes? If Spike Jonze actually makes The 3, I will be laughing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 release of this feature is part of Columbia TriStar’s Superbit Collection, referring to the high bit-rate/lower compression transfer of the video in order to produce a pristine picture devoid of MPEG artefacts. It also offers a DTS soundtrack in addition to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack offered in R4 and R1. Because extras mean very little in comparison to the quality of the audio and video transfer, the lack of the “Behind The Scenes In The Swamp” featurette on the R1 release is largely moot. In short, R1 wins hands down.


    Adaptation. is a thinking person’s comedy, with a brilliant screenplay that tears strips off the Hollywood screenwriting process.

    The video is very good, even if persistently grainy – this was the director’s choice.

    The sound has great ambience, even for a predominantly dialogue driven film.

    The extras don’t shed any light on the making of the film, but that is probably for the best; so much of this is based on in-jokes, it is better to leave you guessing sometimes.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
Good stuff - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)
At 4420Mb the main feature fits on one layer... - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)