[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/adaptation.jpg]][[caption-width-right:300:Yes, the screenplay for this film is co-credited to a fictional character in the movie. A good warning for what is about to come...]]

->'''Charlie:''' I've written myself into my screenplay.\\
'''Donald:''' That's kind of weird, huh?

Screenwriter Creator/CharlieKaufman, fresh off the success of ''Film/BeingJohnMalkovich'', had a problem. He'd been hired to adapt the Susan Orlean book ''The Orchid Thief'', about her experiences with rare flower hunter John [=LaRoche=], into a film, only to find out it had no real story and was mostly about flowers. Going out of his mind with writer's block, he eventually went off the deep end and wrote a screenplay beginning with:

-> Screenwriter Creator/CharlieKaufman, fresh off the success of ''Film/BeingJohnMalkovich'', has a problem...

This only begins to touch upon the {{postmodern}} head trip that is ''Adaptation''. This film functions both as a surprisingly effective film version of Orlean's book, with Creator/MerylStreep as Orlean and Chris Cooper as [=LaRoche=] (for which he won the 2002 Best Supporting Actor Oscar), retaining as much as possible the botanical and historical treatises on orchids; and as a layered deconstruction of the creative process, with neurotic intellectual Charlie (Creator/NicolasCage) and his tortured quest to write a movie where nothing happens, "like in real life", conflicting with his free-spirited twin Donald (oh yeah, Charlie Kaufman gave himself a twin brother [[ActingForTwo also played by]] Creator/NicolasCage) who has written a trashy thriller full of car chases and murders - the exact kind of movie Charlie hates. But it's also increasingly the movie he's in after a meeting with screenwriting mentor [[Literature/{{Story}} Robert [=McKee=]]] inspires him to move the story steadily further away from reality.

All this plays against the raging existential crisis running incessantly through Charlie's mind. The theme of "adaptation" gains a triple meaning throughout the film, referring not only to Charlie's attempt to adapt Orleans' novel, but also to the evolutionary marvel of orchids, and also to Charlie's own attempt to evolve, to "learn how to live in the world".

The film was directed by Creator/SpikeJonze.

This article is about the movie titled ''Adaptation''. For adaptation-related tropes, see DerivativeWorks.

!!This movie provides examples of:

* AdaptationDecay: Charlie's inability to adapt Orlean's story. The movie is unique in being ''about'' its own adaptation decay..
* AutoCannibalism: The modus operandi of the SerialKiller in Donald's script, ''The Three''. [[spoiler:He also dies from this as the villain and the leading lady are the same person.]]
* TheCameo: Creator/JohnMalkovich appears as himself on the set of ''Film/BeingJohnMalkovich'' (Kaufman's previous movie where Malkovich played himself), along with several other cast members.
* ChekhovsGun [[spoiler: The montage at the beginning showed two alligators in the swamp where [=LaRoche=] is stealing orchids with the natives. They would later show up in the climax to save Charlie and Donald from [=LaRoche=].]]
* CreatorBreakdown: [[invoked]] Charlie goes through this, ultimately writing himself into the story.
* CreditsGag: "Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman." [[spoiler: The film is [[InMemoriam dedicated to Donald's memory]] as well.]] The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, so Donald is possibly the only fictional character to receive any real-life awards nomination. (Donald's "picture" on the Oscarcast was a picture of Charlie reversed.)
* ADateWithRosiePalms: Charlie, rather frequently. We're even lucky enough to see what he's thinking..
* DeconReconSwitch: For movie clichés.
* DespairEventHorizon: By the end of the film Susan Orlean regrets everything she's done her entire life.
* DeusExMachina: Discussed and defied. Charlie and Donald are saved from Orlean and [=LaRoche=] by [[spoiler: alligators appearing and attacking [=LaRoche=]]]. However, this use is really a late-hung ChekhovsGun as just before the third act where everything gets weird, Charlie is told by screenwriting guru Robert [=McKee=] that DeusExMachina is lazy writing.
* FanService: It's surprisingly abundant. There is a lot of toplessness (some of it coming from Creator/MerylStreep of all people)
* FantasticDrug: Susan and [=LaRoche=] are apparently hooked on a drug made from the Ghost Orchids.
* GenreShift: Charlie asks Donald for help writing the film's ending...
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade: Susan Orlean and John [=LaRoche=] are both real people and the movie does function as an [[TitleDrop adaptation]] of Orleans' book ''The Orchid Thief''...up until about the 3rd act, where [[spoiler: Orlean and [=LaRoche=] are "revealed" to have actually gone on to form a relationship, become drug addicts (and implied drug dealers), and then try and murder the Kaufman brothers to cover up the fact. Also presumably applies to the Native Americans who 3rd act [=LaRoche=] is shown to have caught also snorting the orchid drug.]] The real Susan Orlean apparently was shocked at the direction they wanted to take the script, but relented and now loves the movie.
** To a lesser extent, screenwriting "guru" Robert [=McKee=] (played by Brian Cox) is portrayed as an over-the-top dictorial egomaniac who shouts and swears at the people in his seminar, especially if they ask what he considers stupid questions, and viciously rips into any trope he considers to be tripe or cliche and the writers who write them (that part isn't necessarily fictional, mind). They had to get the real [=McKee's=] permission to put him in the script, of course, and he had no problems with the portrayal (in fact he even suggested Cox for the part) after seeing the movie, especially since Kaufman is if anything even harder on himself. He does think the movie simplified what he actually teaches, but also doesn't mind that as it suited the story.
* HowIWroteThisArticleArticle: The movie is essentially one of these in movie form, following the general pattern of a creator having writer's block and deciding to write about their writer's block instead.
* IndecisiveDeconstruction: The movie is this on purpose. First, it explicitly states all the tropes it's not going to use, and in the second half it gleefully goes all out in using them. Not [[DoingItForTheArt for the art]], but as a commentary about ExecutiveMeddling.
* InnerMonologue: Which disappears the moment Robert [=McKee=] says it's hackneyed.
* KavorkaMan: Ron Livingston's character is an agent who isn't above using his job to score aspiring actresses. In conversation with Charlie he frequently breaks off in mid-sentence to mutter "Ooh, I fucked ''you'' in the ass!" at women passing in the background.
** Donald is another example.
* TheKillerInMe: Spoofed. Donald's hackneyed script "The Three" has the twist that the killer, the detective, and the victim are all the same person. Charlie complains that it makes no sense, but it's a smash hit anyway.
* LampshadeHanging: "And God help you if you use [[InnerMonologue voice-over]] in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing."
** It must be noted that in real life, Robert [=McKee=] says he allows voice over "[[TakeThat despite what Charlie Kaufman tells you]]" as long as it does more than simply describe what's happening on the screen.
** Charlie questions the logistics of Donald's script, asking "How could you have somebody held prisoner in a basement and... and working at a police station at the same time?", and Donald responds "trick photography": This is of course in a scene where two characters played by the same actor interact with each other.
* LovableRogue: [=LaRoche=]. The fictional version of him, at least. The real one actually organized that poaching operation to draw the authorities' attention to the legal loophole.
* LuckyCharmsTitle: The unconventional period at the end of the title.
* MetaFiction
* MindScrew: Seriously. Just think about it for a minute, especially considering that most of this story is true.
** Though this depends a lot on your definition of "truth." [[RecursiveReality See Mind Screw.]]
* MoodWhiplash: The final act, very intentionally so.
* MultiGenderedSplitPersonalities: An in-universe example, in which Donald's inane psychological thriller screenplay ''[=The Thr3e=]'' ends with the reveal that the cop protagonist, the killer he is chasing after and the female victim the cop falls in love with are all the same person. Donald chooses to cheerfully ignore all of the FridgeLogic and plot holes created by this plot twist.
* NeverSmileAtACrocodile
* OpeningMonologue: The film opens with a black screen and Donald talking about his loser life for 90 seconds.
* PolarOppositeTwins: Donald and Charlie Kaufman.
* {{Postmodernism}}
* PragmaticAdaptation: Charlie approaches adapting the book in every way possible, going to far as to open the story with the beginning of the universe... and still getting nowhere. The movie itself is Charlie's answer to adapting a book that could not ''possibly'' make for a good movie (at least without an amazing level of AdaptationDecay). The irony is that the film is able to cover all important details of ''The Orchid Thief'' through Charlie's obsession with the lack of any narrative, only going off on completely original material towards the end.
* SelfInsertFic: A more professional example than most.
* ShadowArchetype: Donald functions as Charlie's Jungian Shadow, representing everything that he rejects about himself/his profession or doesn't want to become. And, true to Jung's idea, Charlie only grows as a person when [[spoiler: he accepts that there are good things about Donald and learns from them after Donald's death.]]
* ShaggyDogStory: ''The Orchid Thief''.
* SplitPersonality: In ''The Three'', the detective, killer and hostage all turn out to be the same person. However that's supposed to work.
* StylisticSuck: Donald's cliched thriller. At least, how much it sucks is based on Charlie's opinion of the material as described by Donald. Also, [[spoiler:the entire final act; Charlie finally allows Donald to assist with the ''Orchid Thief'' script he's writing, thereby altering their own reality in the process.]]
* SurpriseCarCrash: Chris Cooper's character retells the story of how he lost his front teeth. [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfn0QVwZE-A The flashback shows]] him in the process of backing out of the driveway when his station wagon is hit by a truck. His mother and uncle in the backseat are instantly dead.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech: Charlie gives a brief one to Susan after [[spoiler:Donald dies and alligators kill [=LaRoche=].]]
* TitleDrop: In [=LaRoche=]'s speech about evolution
* WritersSuck: Kaufman's self deprecation is the major theme of this film, and this self-loathing persists until TheClimax. At the same time, however, Kaufman (the real writer) uses his AuthorAvatar to capture the triumph and joy of the creative process, and the qualities that separate a talented writer from a hack like Donald.