Universal acclaim - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 40
  2. Negative: 2 out of 40
  1. 100
    Screenwriting this smart, inventive, passionate and rip-roaringly funny is a rare species. It's magic.
  2. 100
    What a bewilderingly brilliant and entertaining movie this is.
  3. 100
    In a larger sense, Adaptation is a movie about the simple act of enjoying life -- of really embracing it -- without constantly worrying about what others think.
  4. 100
    Like no movie before it, Adaptation risks everything -- its cool, its credibility, its very soul -- to expose the horror of making art for the business of entertainment.
  5. 100
    Kaufman strikes just the right balance between playfulness and sincerity, leaping freely from one absurd situation to another before pulling back on the reins.
  6. 100
    It's typical of the nerve, the bravado, the sheer giddy playfulness and sense of fun that characterize what has to be the boldest and most imaginative studio film of the year.
  7. 100
    I realize that the fear of contracting writer's block from a fictional character is crazy, but in the brilliantly scrambled, self-consuming world of Adaptation it has a certain plausibility.
  8. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    An inspired flight of fancy, an oddly poignant examination of the creative process, a rumination on adaptation (orchids to their environment, books to the screen and misfits like Charlie to life) and, in its ultimate irony, a story in which our hero learns a life-altering lesson.
  9. 100
    Surely the most creative trick of the year and grimly funny throughout.
  10. 100
    May not be the first movie to examine the creative process. But it's the most playfully brilliant.
  11. The notion of meta has never been diddled more mega than in this giddy Möbius strip of a movie, a contrivance so whizzy and clever that even when it tangles at the end, murked like swampy southwestern Florida itself, the stumble has quotation marks around it.
  12. For three-fourths of its journey, Adaptation is, for my money, the movie of the year: an incredibly audacious and original exercise that challenges the conventions of moviemaking and stretches the boundaries of fiction -- almost, but not quite, to the breaking point.
  13. 90
    A highly enjoyable failure, a quandary that can't resolve itself.
  14. Spellbindingly original -- Like the wild orchid, Adaptation is a marvel of adaptation, entwined with its hothouse environment and yet stunningly unique.
  15. 90
    Adaptation is hardly profound, but it's one of the most soulful and loopily romantic movies I've seen all year.
  16. 90
    Adaptation's success in engaging the audience in the travails of creating a screenplay is extraordinary.
  17. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    All but stealing the film is Cooper, who seizes a rare opportunity as an extroverted, rather than buttoned-up, character to bust loose like an uncaged alligator.
  18. Probably the ultimate writers' film, but it's also a brash, daring, and dynamic film -- as delicate as an orchid but as durable and malleable as the species.
  19. There's only one proper Hollywood ending to this story. Next year, Charlie and the surreal "Donald" Kaufman (listed as co-writers in the playful credits) should win twin Oscars for best adapted screenplay. They've earned it -- really.
  20. The final result, shaped by the brilliantly nimble, pitch-perfect direction of Spike Jonze, and blessed by superb acting, is an extraordinarily clever comedy that falters only in the last 20 minutes.
  21. It's a testament to Cage's canny performance and Jonze's seamless use of special effects that you believe Charlie and Donald are two entirely different people.
  22. Duelling roles are an actor's dream, and Cage takes full advantage. He and that face of his -- hang-dog homely one minute, vibrantly macho the next -- are perfectly cast. So is Streep as the sophisticated Manhattanite drawn into a steamy realm of Southern discomfort.
  23. 83
    You have to experience the thing to understand its simultaneous recklessness and care, its humor and sadness in the name of failure, its playful but dismal take on formulaic Hollywood endings.
  24. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    One of the best movies Hollywood has ever made about itself, a extraordinary meta-narrative that continually questions its own ability to capture human experience, disappointment and uneventful loneliness. It's hilariously funny.
  25. Reviewed by: Clint Morris
    Infinitely impractical, consistently unique and vastly imaginative.
  26. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    The movie ends in a burst of violence that we are unprepared for and don't believe. Maybe it's the film's final joke. It's a miscalculation -- though a calculated one -- but it does not erase one's fond memories of all the odd, deeply humorous behavior that preceded it.
  27. Adaptation, like "Being John Malkovich" before it, is far from a well-made film, even on its own flaky terms. But it's a brave, sometimes brilliant one, with a phantasmagoric ending, full of love and hope, that defeats prose description. Never was an adaptation more original.
  28. 80
    The trouble with experimental comedies is that it's often impossible to figure out how to end them. But at least this one is intricate fun before it blows itself up. [9 December 2002, p. 142]
  29. Adaptation is sort of like the mythical Ourabouros mentioned in the screenplay -- the snake that eats its own tail -- or like a series of mirrors repeating their images to infinity.
  30. Streep is perfect, as per usual, but the showy orchid role goes to Cage in an Oscar-worthy tour de force. He pours his body into Charlie's slumped frame of mind and creates a character churning with endearing contradictions -- the unforgettable nebbish.
  31. Snags on the fact that neither story depicted -- not Kaufman's and especially not Orlean's -- is enough to sustain more than an incidental interest.
  32. 75
    An occasionally maddening and sometimes brilliant motion picture that varies between being insightfully sharp and insufferably self-indulgent. Regardless of whether you appreciate the movie or not, it's likely to stay with you.
  33. 75
    Wastes amusing beginnings.
  34. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    I'm not turning cartwheels over Adaptation as energetically as my colleagues. Part of me -- and I'm thinking aloud here, I've likely been infected by Kaufman's comic self-consciousness, and also by his meta-comic impulse to draw attention to that self-consciousness, and probably also by his meta-meta-comic impulse to draw attention to drawing attention to his self-consciousness -- that -- that --
  35. This is like a Ferris wheel--the ride's enjoyable but you've gone nowhere once it's over.
  36. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Even at its best, Adaptation is one of the movie year's most esoteric outings -- more so than even Paul Thomas Anderson's far superior "Punch-drunk Love." Too smart to ignore but a little too smugly superior to like, this could be a movie that ends up slapping its target audience in the face by shooting itself in the foot.
  37. 60
    At the end of the day, though, this is Charlie Kaufman's movie and I'm not sure he proves quite the visionary puppetmaster many in the media are making him out to be.
  38. The real joke is that the picture's most conventional elements, the superbly acted entanglement between the complicated Orlean and the boastful but unexpectedly thoughtful Laroche, would have made a compelling movie all by themselves -- if written by someone other than Charlie Kaufman.
  39. The most overrated movie of the year (of all time?) by people who should know better.
  40. Virtually everything that happens in Adaptation is almost juvenile showing off - daring to make a film that is in search of a script.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 181 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 64 out of 79
  2. Negative: 12 out of 79
  1. Aug 27, 2010
    Self Indulgent? Yep. Pretentious? Of course. But the real miracle here is how the film can take all of these self-references and neuroses to create a story of characters with which the viewer can empathize and actors can let their talent shine (most notably Nicolas Cage in his dual role). And believe me, I would give this movie a lot less credit if the screenplay wasn't so damn good. Full Review »
  2. Jun 28, 2014
    Such a film that leaves you mulling over what just happened. In a good way, that is. The film's screenplay is contained in this droste effect of a film within a film. Nicolas Cage, when given the right script, can be an accomplished actor. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper are far from supporting roles. It's a three way story and intertwines like 'Pulp Fiction'. Full Review »
  3. Jun 5, 2014
    Adaptation, just like my last review of Seven Psychopaths, references itself and is so ironic that it pulls it off. The movie is about a screenwriter who is having a hard time adapting a book into a movie, yet the actual screenwriter of this movie, Adaptation, wrote the movie about this subject. Cage plays a lonely, asocial screenwriter perfectly, and yet at the same time plays his social, flirtatious twin brother: sometimes in the same scene! It takes true acting talent to do that.

    Adaptation takes a banal subject- orchids- and turns it into an original piece of indie magic with a couple of unforeseen and unconventional twist near the end. It's more than a movie about a movie- it's a movie about failing to write a movie: if that makes sense.
    Full Review »