Adaptation – Movie

It’s a complicated one to even begin.

The first day I stepped foot in this office, I was made to sit in the board room where amateur artworks hung on the walls. Now normally we see art prints in workspaces, whenever there’s such work it’s either an employee or a boss’s kids, or long-term patients in hospitals (can be employees in case of an office)

They were signed by AB, and he scratches a word above his signature on his artwork. (the works in oil pastels or crayons)

Never knew I will be seeing this person and will have a chance to ask him “What is this?”

So far, our dynamics have been a bit weird so I refrained from asking, but then my inner lil B*** is on a mission to fail these petty plans my workplace has.

I didn’t want this to be a face-to-face convo, I left a message on WhatsApp exactly asking this:

“I had to ask you something, only if you are comfortable answering. What do you scratch just above your signature? Been racking my mind for 1 and half years now”

His reply was one word, “adaptation”.

And my reply was this…🤦‍♀️

Because I have searched everything on the planet that it could be.

Now, when I searched adaptation the first thing that popped up was a movie. (Was I a little bit obsessed with AB? maybe)

Since I didn’t have a lot of work last weekend and that little worm in my mind has been wriggling for 1.5 years, I started watching it.

And… it left me speechless.

I was so spot on about one thing. AB is extremely socially awkward, he hides it with silence.

I noticed it in the first few meetings, he is a socially awkward person to a level that he just gets numb when he is introduced to someone new.

It’s a bit odd for a 40-something guy but not something I haven’t seen before.


Adaptation is a Charlie Kaufman non-linear movie. If you have seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of my fav movies), you would know how well Charlie Kaufman handles non-linear script.

It’s about a scriptwriter (Charlie Kaufman himself) suffering from writer’s block.

Haven’t we all been there at some point? For me the feeling is more frequent than I would like to admit. I have been a constant visitor of this grey foggy portal where you get lost on the first step, and stay lost for days, weeks, months…

Other characters are, Donald Kaufman (Charlie’s polar opposite twin brother), Susan Orlean (writer of the book on which the screenplay is to be based on), The Orchid Thief), John Laroche (the actual orchid thief, and a crazy guy living life one passion at a time).

I’m not going to talk about movie much, you will have to watch it! It’s one of a kind.

It’s a mosaic of complex pieces of glass with every piece having a story of its own.
You look at one of them, you smile, you look at the other you cry. My mind couldn’t perceive it as one whole story initially I don’t know why. But the pieces are slowly moving closer to each other with every passing day.

So, let’s talk about it in fragments.

I personally had a series of emotions watching it. Some parts hit home really hard.


Charlie Kaufman : I’ve written myself into my screenplay.

The writer gets eerily close to the story, to a point where he starts inserting themself so much that after one point it starts to feel like their memoir… been there! Got scared! Hated it! That’s why I abandoned the first book I was writing. The book was turning into a mirror and I couldn’t handle it.

Then Social awkwardness.

Charlie Kaufman : My leg hurts, I wonder if it’s cancer? There’s a bump. I’m starting to sweat. Stop sweating. I’ve got to stop sweating. Can she see it dripping down my forehead? She looked at my hair line. She thinks I’m bald. She…

Charlie has crippling social awkwardness/anxiety. I think this is where AB relates with the character. I spotted his social awkwardness in the first few meetings and then I never stopped noticing it. Didn’t take much effort. Zazu is like that and I have known him all my life.

I myself am socially awkward in a very retarded way. I have blurted out things that made no sense lol.

So, some cover it with silence like Zazu and AB, and some cover it with random stupid words or awkward laughs, like me.

4. And this..

“What’s so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There’s a certain orchid look exactly like a certain insect so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mateflower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it.”

“Neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does.”

“By simply doing what they’re designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live, how the only barometer you have is your heart. How, when you spot your flower, you can’t let anything get in your way.”

This part shows the relationship between orchids and the insects that pollinate it. How nature tied down this whole web of universe and everything finds the way to get to their destiny, by being pulled by their own individual thread. Nothing can stop you from getting where you are meant to be.

Susan Orlean : There are too many ideas and things and people. Too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something, is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size.

Writers, artists, and everyone who dares to dream don’t our passions and dreams condense the whole universe for us? It’s such a beautiful thought and I could never come up with the words to reflect on it.

John Laroche : You know why I like plants?
Susan Orlean : Nuh uh.
John Laroche : Because they’re so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.
Susan Orlean : [pause] Yeah but it’s easier for plants. I mean they have no memory. They just move on to whatever’s next. With a person though, adapting almost shameful. It’s like running away.

Makes sense right? Adapting feels a little bit like deceiving yourself. You know you are leaving behind your original form to conform to something you are not originally. A shameful deceit indeed.

Susan Orlean : It’s over. Everything’s over. I did everything wrong. I want my life back. I want it back before everything got fucked up. I want to be a baby again. I want to be new. I WANT TO BE NEW.

Ok. At this point I was loathing her, I hated her, I abhorred her. Just to find some sort of pleasure, in fact, any form of pleasure and a break from her stupid fking life she ended up ruining so many. And now you want to be a baby? Eff you!

“- Donald Kaufman: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn’t have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
– Charlie Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.
– Donald Kaufman: That was her business, not mine.”

“You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.”

Oh Donald. I love Donald for this. Innocent and always projecting a positive vibe. People like these lit up your life. What he said about unrequited love is just the sweetest thing.

I agree with him here. Growing up you realize you can’t own everything you love and you don’t have to. And this realization alone has been catharsis on some level.

About the real world and life

Charlie Kaufman : Sir, what if the writer is attempting to create a story where nothing much happens? Where people don’t change, they don’t have any epiphanies, they struggle and are frustrated and nothing is resolved. More a reflection of the real world.
Robert McKee : The real world?
Charlie Kaufman : Yes, sir.
Robert McKee : The real fucking world. First of all, you write a screenplay without conflict or crisis you’ll bore your audience to tears. Secondly, nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your fucking mind? People are murdered every day. There’s genocide, war, corruption. Every fucking day somewhere in the world somebody sacrifices his life to save somebody else. Every fucking day someone somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ sake a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church! Someone goes hungry, somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can’t find that stuff in life, then you my friend don’t know crap about life! And why the FUCK are you wasting my two precious hours with your movie? I don’t have any use for it! I don’t have any bloody use for it!
Charlie Kaufman : Okay, thanks.

Yes yes and yes! Real life can be far more dramatic than any movie. Truth is actually stranger than fiction at times. You sit with somebody and listen to their story and you can write 5 books there and then, only if you are listening carefully.

Robert McKee : “I’ll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit. Find an ending, but don’t cheat, and don’t you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them.”

Not sure about this one. I still do agree with Charlie’s initial stance on ending.

Not everything has to end with a bang, some are ok ending with a whimper. And that’s the beauty of it. I have a long list of books and movies that just trailed off casually at the end. No action, no drama. And they feel more real. Before Trilogy is one example I can think of at the top of my head

[first lines]
Charlie Kaufman : [voiceover] Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn’t be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There’s something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I’m way overdue. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn’t fat I would be happier. I wouldn’t have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that’s fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more, improve myself. What if I learned Russian or something? Or took up an instrument? I could speak Chinese. I’d be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that? Just be real. Confident. Isn’t that what women are attracted to? Men don’t have to be attractive. But that’s not true. Especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it’s my brain chemistry. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me. Bad chemistry. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I’ll still be ugly though. Nothing’s gonna change that.
[at a seminar, Charlie Kaufman has asked McKee for advice on his new screenplay in which ‘nothing much happens’]

This whole monologue had insecurity smeared all over it. When somebody has a sudden urge to turn their life over for good, at once. But get overwhelmed by the amount of change it requires (in their heads). Insecure people scare me tbh.

Valerie Thomas : I guess we thought that maybe Susan Orlean and Leroche could fall in love, and…
Charlie Kaufman : Okay. But, I’m saying, it’s like, I don’t want to cram in sex or guns or car chases, you know… or characters, you know, learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcoming obstacles to succeed in the end, you know. I mean… The book isn’t like that, and life isn’t like that. You know, it just isn’t. And… I feel very strongly about this.

Honestly, I still feel strongly about Charlie’s idea.

Charlie Kaufman : How could you have somebody held prisoner in a basement and… and working at a police station at the same time?
Donald Kaufman : [pause] Trick photography.

Lol, our Donald has the answer to everything.

Charlie Kaufman : You and I share the same DNA. Is there anything more lonely than that?
[last lines]

Ah ok. I have had that feeling with my siblings so many times. It gets very lonely when you are different. So relatable.

Charlie Kaufman: I have to go right home. I know how to finish the script now. It ends with Kaufman driving home after his lunch with Amelia, thinking he knows how to finish the script. Shit, that’s voice-over. McKee would not approve. How else can I show his thoughts? I don’t know. Oh, who cares what McKee says? It feels right. Conclusive. I wonder who’s gonna play me. Someone not too fat. I liked that Gerard Depardieu, but can he not do the accent? Anyway, it’s done. And that’s something. So: “Kaufman drives off from his encounter with Amelia, filled for the first time with hope.” I like this. This is good.

Umm happy ending. Ok. I don’t know what I feel about this yet.

Donald Kaufman : Anyway, listen, I meant to ask you, I need a cool way to kill people. Don’t worry, for my script.
Charlie Kaufman : I don’t write that kind of stuff.
Donald Kaufman : Oh, come on, man, please? You’re the genius.
Charlie Kaufman : Here you go. The killer’s a literature professor. He cuts off little chunks from his victims’ bodies until they die. He calls himself “the deconstructionist”.

Loved this part. I’m so going to use deconstructionist everywhere I can!

Charlie Kaufman : The only idea more overused than serial killers is multiple personality. On top of that, you explore the notion that cop and criminal are really two aspects of the same person. See every cop movie ever made for other examples of this.
Donald Kaufman : Mom called it “psychologically taut”.

Charlie couldn’t be more accurate here lol.

When Maryl Streep finally finds a ghost orchid and says “It’s just a flower” I froze in the moment and had to take a break from the movie. Not even kidding. That was the turning point of the whole thing for me. She just froze. Also because the shift in her expressions was something only she pulls off brilliantly. The story takes a crazy turn and after that, I just went numb.

It was like a spell of 2 days and once that broke a cloud of gloom settled into the air around me. I was so sad and I don’t know why.

Please watch it. It’s one of a kind. And the cast is just exceptional.

Copyright © 2023 stoneronarollercoaster – All rights reserved

Kindly visit my post Warriors Invited To Raise Mental Health Awareness where I invite Mental Health Warriors to submit their blog’s address so that we can join hands to control this wildfire.

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