Charlie Kaufman is a neurotic, narcissistic, self loathing writer who is hired to adapt Susan Orlean’s novel The Orchid Thief into a film. The only problem is that he is suffering from writers block, add in a twin brother who is also writing a screenplay and his inability to interact with people and hang-on for a wild ride. Charlie tries a number of different approaches to writing the script and suddenly finds himself being written into the story. What starts out as an adaptation of a book into a film turns into a completely different story all together. It turns into a tongue and cheek story about movie making in Hollywood and a person’s ability to adapt and change to fit their surroundings.
Columbia Tri-Star has been criticized for releasing sub-par films in their above average quality Superbit format. This film is presented in their Superbit format and is a film deserving of this treatment. This film visually has a lot going on with Spike Jones (Being John Malchovich and numerous unique music videos) at the helm the look of the film is very sharp and unique. Shot partially in the swamplands of Florida and looking at the world of Orchid collectors this is a visually stunning film. With tight close up shots of unique flowers the increased quality that the Superbit format brings out really shows through. This is a super sharp and perfectly done 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The menus are animated (let it run for a while and watch the ants as they seem to crawl across the inside of your TV), scored and easy to navigate as well.
Where I find that most of the added benefits of the Superbit format lasts is with the audio. This disc contains both a Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio track and both are exceptional sounding. The sounds of the swamp are 360 degrees, subtle and completely immersive. When called for (mainly in the final scene) the film is also very dynamic, there is a gun shot towards that will surprise you with how realistic it sounds. Voices are intelligible and this is very important as this is a very dialogue driven film with a stream of consciousness voice over that permeates a large portion of the film. Also included are a French 5.1 audio track and French and English subtitles.
As is typical of the Superbit format we have very few extras included with this disc. We have trailer for the film, and a cast and filmmaker filmographies. There is also an interesting easter egg, simply push up on the main menu towards the logo and then hit enter when the red phone appears. I don’t think that the lack of extras detracts from this disc though, it almost seems to add to the mystery of the ending of the film as you are left wondering what is real and what is fiction.
This is a very smart and funny film. When listening to Charlie’s inner monologue you can instantly relate as we have thought the things that go through his mind. We also have a very self deprecating performance from Nicholas Cage as the overweight, balding and Neurotic Kaufmans. Throw this together with very strong performances by Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep with a unique and original storyline and you have an instant cult classic. Based on a true story there are parts of the film that you are left wondering what was real and what was not. Let’s not also forget that the video and audio qualities are far above average and you have a film that should be part of any serious collection.