Adaptation. is a 2002 film about writing, finding love, adapting to life, and a screenwriter who, having trouble adapting a non-fiction novel to the big screen, asks for the assistance of his less experienced twin brother.
- [voiceover] To begin... To begin... How to start? I'm hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. So I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana nut. That's a good muffin.
- I don't want to cram in sex or guns or car chases or characters learning profound life lessons or growing or coming to like each other or overcome obstacles to succeed in the end. The book isn't like that, and life isn't like that, it just isn't.
- [voiceover] I should have gone in. I'm such a chicken. I should have kissed her. I should go knock on her door and just kiss her. It would be romantic. It would be something we'd tell our kids about someday. I'm going to do that right now. [drives away]
- You and I share the same DNA. Is there anything more lonely than that?
- I'd wanna let the movie exist, rather than be artificially plot-driven.
- [voiceover] Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat I would be happier. I wouldn't have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that's fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more. Improve myself. What if I learned Russian or something, or took up an instrument. I could speak Chinese. I'd be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that. Just be real. Confident. Isn't that what women are attracted to? Men don't have to be attractive. But that's not true. Especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it's my brain chemistry. Maybe that's what's wrong with me. Bad chemistry. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I'll still be ugly though. Nothing's going to change that.
- What the hell do you need binoculars for?!
- I have to go right home. I know how to finish the script now. It ends with Kaufman driving home after his lunch with Amelia, thinking he knows how to finish the script. Shit, that's voice-over. McKee would not approve. How else can I show his thoughts? I don't know. Oh, who cares what McKee says? It feels right. Conclusive. I wonder who's gonna play me. Someone not too fat. I liked that Gerard Depardieu, but can he not do the accent? Anyway, it's done. And that's something. So: 'Kaufman drives off from his encounter with Amelia, filled for the first time with hope.' I like this. This is good.
- You are what you love, not what loves you, I decided that a long time ago.
- [delighted] I got shot. Isn't that fucked up?
- McKee says we all have to realize we write in a genre, so we must find originality within that genre. Did you know that there hasn't been a new genre since Fellini invented the mockumentary...? My genre's thriller, what's yours?
- [reads] Sometimes this kind of story turns out to be something more, some glimpse of life that expands like those japanese paper balls you drop in water and they bloom into flowers and the flower is so marvelous you can't believe there was a time all you saw in front of you was a paper ball and a glass of water.
- Who's gonna play me? I think I should play me.
- I'm probably the smartest person I know.
- By simply doing what they are designed to do something large and magnificient happens. In this sense they show us how to live. How the only barometer you have is your heart. How when you spot your flower, you can't let anything get in your way.
- Bad things happen, darkness descends.
- I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I want to know how it feels like to care about something passionately.
- There are too many ideas and things and people. Too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more managable size.
- Most people yearn for something exceptional, something so inspiring that they'd want to risk everything for that passion, but few would act on it. It was very powerful and intoxicating to be around someone so alive.
- It's over. Everything, I did everything wrong. I want my life back. I want it back before everything got fucked up. I want to be a baby again. I want to be new. I want to be new.
- Change is not a choice. Not for a species of plant, and not for me.
- I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes the film. Wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you'll be fine.
- I love you too, you know.
- Charlie Kaufman: The script I'm starting, it's about flowers. No one's ever done a movie about flowers before. So there are no guidelines...
- Donald Kaufman: What about "Flowers for Algernon"?
- Charlie Kaufman: Well, that's not about flowers. And it's not a movie.
- Donald Kaufman: Ok, I'm sorry, I never saw it.
- Donald Kaufman: Listen, I need a cool way to kill people. Don't worry, for my script.
- Charlie Kaufman: I don't know that kind of stuff.
- Donald Kaufman: Oh, come on, man, please? You're the genius.
- Charlie Kaufman: Here you go. The killer's a literature professor. He cuts off little chunks from his victims' bodies until they die. He calls himself "the deconstructionist".
- Donald Kaufman: I'm putting in a chase sequence. So the killer flees on horseback with the girl, the cop's after them on a motorcycle and it's like a battle between motors and horses, like technology vs. horse.
- Charlie Kaufman: And they're still all one person, right?
- Charlie Kaufman: [voiceover] I'm pathetic, I'm a loser. I have failed, I am panicked. I've sold out, I am worthless, I... What the fuck am I doing here? What the fuck am I doing here? Fuck. It is my weakness, my ultimate lack of conviction that brings me here. Easy answers used to shortcut yourself to success. And here I am because my jump into the abysmal well - isn't that just a risk one takes when attempting something new? I should leave here right now. I'll start over. I need to face this project head on and...
- Robert McKee:...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.
- Donald Kaufman: I'm pitching my script today.
- Charlie Kaufman: Please don't say pitch.
- [At a seminar, Charlie Kaufman has asked McKee for advice on his new screenplay in which 'nothing much happens']
- Robert McKee: Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your fucking mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every fucking day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every fucking day, someone, somewhere makes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ's sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don't know crap about life. And why the FUCK are you wasting my two precious hours with your movie? I don't have any use for it. I don't have any bloody use for it.
- Charlie Kaufman: Ok, thank you.
- John Laroche: Then one morning, I woke up and said, "Fuck fish." I renounce fish, I will never set foot in that ocean again. And there hasn't been a time where I have stuck so much as a toe back in that ocean.
- Susan Orlean: But why?
- John Laroche: Done with fish.
- John Laroche: You know why I like plants?
- Susan Orlean: Nuh uh.
- John Laroche: Because they're so mutable. Adaptation is a profound process. Means you figure out how to thrive in the world.
- Susan Orlean: [pause] Yeah but it's easier for plants. I mean they have no memory. They just move on to whatever's next. With a person though, adapting almost shameful. It's like running away.
- John Laroche: Darling, I don't know what's come over you.
- Susan Orlean: You came all over me.
- John Laroche: My goodness.
- Charlie Kaufman: Mr. McKee! I'm the guy you yelled at today.
- Robert McKee: I need more.
- Charlie Kaufman: ...But a little fantastic and fleeting and out of reach.
- Robert McKee: Then what happens?
- Charlie Kaufman: That's the end of the book. I wanted to present it simply without big character arcs or sensationalizing the story. I wanted to show flowers as God's miracles. I wanted to show that Orlean never saw the blooming ghost orchid. It was about disappointment.