Many stories within stories weave throughout this film. The source story is that of Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage), the scriptwriter of this film, struggling to write the script of this film, which is to be an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s (Meryl Streep) novel, The Orchid Thief. The pressure to live up to his highly acclaimed Being John Malkovich script, the desire not to alter the novel’s story and his frustration in finding the book’s focal and interest points are the basis of a variety of related stories. These include stories of Kaufman’s personal struggles, his relationship with his alter ego represented as his twin brother, Susan Orlean’s life, the orchid thief John Laroche (Chris Cooper), the lives of Laroche’s employees, Orlean and Laroche’s relationship, Kaufman’s meeting with Orlean and Laroche, plants and orchids.
The structure of Hollywood movies tends to follow set recipes. This movie is very different and had the potential to provide a stimulating two hours but it fails due to attempts to be too clever and unusual. It is easy to follow the various threads of the movie and they do not play with our thoughts as they could have nor compare to the thought provoking ideas produced in the “Being John Malkovich” film.
The acting is good. However, it is hard to identify with the characters, most of whom do not seem to be living in what most of the audience would consider the real world. The character of John Laroche is initially likeable but this wanes as the film progresses. The various stories in the film are interesting and some of the ideas introduced in the film will make you think. Towards the end, the stories intentionally become a little daft.
The movie, reviews itself through some of Kaufman’s voice-over narration and Robert McKee’s advice to Kaufman within the film. Even this reviewing of itself seems to highlight its negative points. Its self-indulgence to name one.
This film will probably be overrated due to its quirky nature, even though it is tedious in parts. This film can be as irritating as the person in the cinema with the exaggerated laugh who is trying to emphasise to other viewers that he understands the film’s idiosyncrasies and deeper meanings even though they are not that difficult to see. At least with this person, on can amuse oneself by laughing at unfunny parts, just to hear this person laugh louder to make sure it doesn’t seem like he’s missed something.
The Bottom Line: Quirky film structure and many interesting story lines but it is a bit convoluted and will not appeal to all tastes.
Best quote from the film: “We are what we love, not what loves us.”