Another Demented Charlie Kaufman Masterpiece

Having collaborated together on the amazingly original and unique Being John Malkovich, Hollywood eagerly anticipated the second film by director Spike Jonze and gifted screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep headline Adaptation, a loopy and brilliantly clever meta-story about neurotic screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s struggles adapting Susan Orlean’s bestselling book The Orchid Thief.

Portraying both Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin brother Donald, Nicolas Cage comedically captures the insecure screenwriter’s obsessions and tendencies on screen with sympathy and pathos. Struggling to adapt The Orchid Thief into a workable screenplay, Charlie’s life becomes more and more strange as he witnesses his less talented brother Donald gain success with a mindlessly derivative screenplay about a serial killer.

Adaptation is smart filmmaking for intelligent, thinking adults sprinkled with irony, wit, and unforgettable comedic moments

The multi-layered premise intelligently blends Kaufman’s real struggles with his imagined screenplay for orchid hunter John Laroche (Chris Cooper) and journalist Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep). What unfolds over the first two acts are a high-wire act of inspired filmmaking and complex writing. Cooper is deliriously funny as the eccentric Laroche, practically stealing the movie.

A heady mix of reality and fiction colliding, the incredibly imaginative scenario could only spring from the fevered mind of Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). The Oscar-winning screenwriter’s uniquely stunted and twisted style reinvents the traditional Hollywood screenwriting formula, often mocking it with moving and hilarious results.

Hailed as a genius after the success of Being John Malkovich, Kaufman pulls off nearly the impossible with Adaptation. If anything, the twisting meta-story is even more clever and original, proving his success was no fluke.

Adaptation is smart filmmaking for intelligent, thinking adults sprinkled with irony, wit and unforgettable comedic moments.


Licensed from Sony, Shout Factory provides a satisfactory presentation for the 2002 film that doesn’t scream new transfer. Adaptation was once issued on SuperBit DVD by Sony and Image Entertainment followed with their BD in 2012. Presented at its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio, clarity and definition are average at best. The 1080P video is consistent with acceptable grain reproduction and respectable Hi-def detail.

Shout Factory encodes the main feature in transparent AVC on a BD-50. Nothing technically goes wrong in the transfer, likely handled years ago by Sony itself. The original 35mm film elements are in fine condition without obvious wear. Its grain structure is occasionally prominent and the picture quality does go soft on occasion. While the transfer is likely an older telecine or 2K effort, the color palette is well-balanced with mildly washed-out flesh-tones.

Shout’s Blu-ray represents a small improvement over the Image disc, almost entirely due to the improved AVC encode.


A score from Carter Burwell with satiric touches and nicely balanced dialogue exchanges are heard in the 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Adaptation has mildly immersive audio with few flashy moments. The occasional song like “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones bursts out in fine fidelity and excellent dynamic range. Rear speakers are largely included for minor ambience. Nothing sticks out in the solid but mostly pedestrian soundstage.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. 2.0 DTS-HD MA stereo is the secondary audio choice.


Shout Factory basically reissues the out-of-print 2012 BD from Image Entertainment (now known as RLJ Entertainment) without any significant new special features. If you already own that disc, there’s nothing here deserving a double dip. For a movie with such a celebrated cast and acclaimed pedigree, the lack of substantial special features is disappointing.

Adaptation is #112 in their Shout Select line and arrives with a slipcover. Reversible cover art is included. The disc is coded for Region A.

“Behind The Scenes Shooting In The Swamp” featurette (02:03 in SD) – A curiously compiled featurette of footage from location shooting with Chris Cooper and Nicolas Cage.

Image Gallery (01:51 in HD)

Theatrical Trailer (02:33 in upscaled SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman team up for a wildly inventive and magically clever meta-comedy made for thinking people.

User Review
4 (1 vote)

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