Universal acclaim - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 40
  2. Negative: 2 out of 40
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  1. 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.
  2. 75
    Wastes amusing beginnings.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. This is like a Ferris wheel--the ride's enjoyable but you've gone nowhere once it's over.
  6. 100
    What a bewilderingly brilliant and entertaining movie this is.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. The most overrated movie of the year (of all time?) by people who should know better.
  10. 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.
  11. Reviewed by: Clint Morris
    Infinitely impractical, consistently unique and vastly imaginative.
  12. 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.
  13. 90
    Adaptation is hardly profound, but it's one of the most soulful and loopily romantic movies I've seen all year.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Spellbindingly original -- Like the wild orchid, Adaptation is a marvel of adaptation, entwined with its hothouse environment and yet stunningly unique.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 100
    Screenwriting this smart, inventive, passionate and rip-roaringly funny is a rare species. It's magic.
  24. 90
    A highly enjoyable failure, a quandary that can't resolve itself.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 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 --
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Virtually everything that happens in Adaptation is almost juvenile showing off - daring to make a film that is in search of a script.
  31. 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.
  32. 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]
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
  37. 90
    Adaptation's success in engaging the audience in the travails of creating a screenplay is extraordinary.
  38. 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.
  39. 100
    Surely the most creative trick of the year and grimly funny throughout.
  40. 100
    May not be the first movie to examine the creative process. But it's the most playfully brilliant.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 203 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 66 out of 81
  2. Negative: 12 out of 81
  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 toSelf 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. Mar 27, 2015
    Donald Kaufman: "What's on your mind monkey butt?."
    Charlie Kaufman: "Nothing, like always".
    The story is about a screenwriter and his
    Donald Kaufman: "What's on your mind monkey butt?."
    Charlie Kaufman: "Nothing, like always".

    The story is about a screenwriter and his brother try to work to gether to fulfill at least one good story. Their ordintary lives twist and turn into something that no one can even believe.

    Adaptation is one of those movies that just blow my mind with it's clever writing and it's weirdly but wonderful character's. Spike Jonze knows how to tell a story, make my jaw drop and knows when to surprise me with it's twist and turns. We all like to make fun of Nicolas Cage's rage moment's and I have to admit I'm one of them who takes the mick of of him, but after seeing this movie and the film Joe that came out early this year; I came say that Cage is more than a screaming over the top actor, his actually a fantastic actor and in this movie his pure brilliant. Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper did a good job in this film as always as they are both great actors.

    My only problem with the film was Meryl Streep's character, now before you flip your **** at me, let me explain why I didn't enjoy her character. She wasn't all that interesting to be honest and she kind of slowed the movie down for me. She was good in the movie, but her character could have been taken out and I wouldn't even care.

    But the one important thing that I want to say and it may not be a big deal for most people but to me this movie told the perfect message and that is "Writing a story or a writing a script is hard." For every screenwriter out there can look at this and say "Yes that's me right they, trying to get a great idea out there, but how can I put it into words to make the great idea into a even more brilliant idea".

    I tried to write a story once called Mark Rider: The Wanted Fugitive and I had a lots of ideas for that story, perfect and so brilliant ideas that I couldn't get it into words, and that got me mad, until I saw this movie and I saw Nicolas Cage's character (Charlie Kaufman) and that character was having the same problem that I had, and I could see myself as him in this movie.

    Overall Adaptation is a well written movie that sinks it's warm and smart message into you, that you really do feel like your in the movie yourself.
    Full Review »
  3. Aug 27, 2014
    An extraordinary film of beauty and cinematic mastery. Although bolstered by remarkable acting performances, the true splendor is rooted inAn extraordinary film of beauty and cinematic mastery. Although bolstered by remarkable acting performances, the true splendor is rooted in Charlie Kaufman's screenplay and the heavenly direction of Spike Jonze. Full Review »