Entertainment Industry and other works

by Ellen Gillingham


The Orchid Thief is a novel by Susan Orlean about mutation. It focuses on John Laroche, an eccentric man of many “hobbyhorses.” A universal theme in the novel is the connection between transformation and mutation. This is present in Laroche’s amoral moral nature, the wetness and dryness of Florida, and the basic evolution of plants. Orlean’s novel is especially unique because of her startling, but definitive writing style, which adds to the creative non-fiction genre.

Adaptation is a film based on The Orchid Thief, but it also includes an additional plot line of a screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman. One main theme of the film is Hollywood convention. Some implausible scenes, such as when Charlie and Donald bond, while being hunted by Orlean and Laroche, have a satiric tone. This literary feature suggests how Hollywood blends with other forms of literature to make the film extraordinary, as a whole.

Adaptation is a compromise between an adaptation of The Orchid Thief and a reflection on the art of adaptation. It shows writing how film adaptations of literary works is challenging. Some would argue that The Orchid Thief like The Hours is an unadaptable book. Kaufman’s Adaptation is more of a joke about movie making than a reshaped marriage between narratives. The film does not communicate all of the author’s visions and reader’s interpretations of the visions.
This article reveals a unique point of view on the struggles and complications in adapting The Orchid Thief.
This article analyses the balance in the relationship between Charlie and Donald Kaufman.
This document by Peter Marks provides insights linking Charles Darwin to Charlie Kaufman.
This critical source examines the main theme of Adaptation. Marks traces the ideas and theories of Darwin along with Kaufman’s references to them throughout the film. This source shows the importance of Charles Darwin’s character in the film. It is also important in understanding how adaptation as main theme is innovative and creatively ever-present in Adaptation.
Adaptation has two interlocking stories: the story of John Laroche, and his relationship with Susan Orlean; and the story of Charlie’s struggle to make the Laroche story work for the film adaptation. If you took out one of those stories, would the film still work? And which story would you remove?
Both John Laroche’s relationship with Susan Orlean; and Charlie’s struggle to make the Laroche story work for the film adaptation are stories in Adaptation, but they interlock. Taking out one of those stories would cause the film not to work as well. Charlie’s story relies on the story of Laroche. If this story were taken out, the viewer would not understand what Kaufman was struggling to capture. Laroche’s story similarly relies on Kaufman’s accompanying story in order to be intriguing. The viewer would find Laroche’s story hard to delve into without seeing Kaufman’s struggles to understand it. Laroche’s relationship with Susan Orlean for example, only becomes unique when Charlie is investigating them. The real emotion and action comes out when Charlie is caught spying on Orlean. Kaufman’s character is even more importantly, a means of communicating the inner thoughts of Laroche and Orlean. Without Charlie, the audience’s understanding of the characters and relationships would not match the in depth analysis that the audience receives when reading the novel. I would not remove either story, but if I had to, it would that of Charlie. However, I would need a new way of communicating Laroche and Orlean’s complex relationship and deep thoughts. By using the interlocking stories, Kaufman has made an intriguing film, whereas either single story as a film production would be incomplete.


4 comments on “Adaptation

  1. aclafol1
    June 17, 2012

    I agree with you that both of these stories are critical for this film to work. As you mentioned, if the viewer only saw Laroche’s story, it would be very boring, because Charlie delves deeper into his story by analyzing him and his relationship with Orlean. Kaufman’s story would also be rather boring and difficult to follow without understanding the relationship he is trying to capture on paper and in film. Therefore, I agree with you that both of these stories are crucial for this film to be worth watching.

  2. doctorzap
    June 18, 2012

    I chose the same critical prompt and thought that both sides were necessary but after reading your post I can see that Charles’s story really isn’t needed. Charles’s side is strictly a fan made-up continuation that enhanced the relationship between Orlean and Laroche. But there are other ways to perform this, it does not have to follow a screenwriters struggle to captivate a movie. It could become even simpler and just follow a random guy that is fascinated with orchids and comes across Laroche. So I agree you with your response and that any kind of story can easily replace Charles’s.

  3. sherrieviolet
    June 18, 2012

    In your critical analysis (number 5) I like how you pointed out that both stories rely on each other, something that I forgot to mention in my answer. Or didn’t verbalize as well. You give an interesting point on removing Charlie’s story, as I opted to remove the other. I like how you mentioned that the stories are more interesting together.

  4. lordbyrne
    June 21, 2012

    Good analysis and online research. I like your comment about hobbyhorses. You’re right: Adaptation is very Tristram-like in that regard. Like the commenters above I also found your argument paragraph fairly persuasive, though I wish you could have been more explicit in your thesis statement about how the film would have been hampered by taking one of the stories out. You get at that in your paragraph, but it would hold together better if you led with it. 10/10. JB.

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This entry was posted on June 17, 2012 by in Adaptation, Film and tagged , , , , , , .
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