Cocktail Recipes Based on Meryl Streep Performances: Adaptation.
Susan Orlean’s Vanilla Ghost Orchid***
2 oz. Absolut Vodka
2 oz. Galliano’s Vanilla Liquor
Splash of Grapefruit Juice
(Best Supporting Actress nod, serve this one on ice)
Rage on with Susan Orlean’s Vanilla Ghost Orchid to enjoy the finer things in life: sex, drugs and flowers. You don’t need to search the swamps of the Florida Keys for hidden treasure when you have this delectable drink funnelling down your gullet. Susan Orlean’s Vanilla Ghost Orchid is the perfect poach for your evening (afternoon, brunch, mid-morning pick-me-up, breakfast, to each his own….) cocktail pallet. Warning: A couple of these cocktails and you may or may not become aroused by flowers, or worse, Chris Cooper’s toothless mullet-sporting orchid snatching cowboy John LaRoche. So top up your glass and relax for the exquisite cinema viewing that is the Spike Jonze directed masterpiece, “Adaptation”. This film isn’t just a chucklefest of Oscar nominated heavyweights, so be prepared to learn the valuable lesson that there are things to do in Florida other than ride the Tower of Terror and wrestle crocodiles. Other things like, you know, illegally poach orchids.
‘Orchids are the sexiest flowers’ (of course they are, I’ve always said that) Meryl’s Susan Orlean says in the on-screen scribing of her bestselling novel that chronicles the life of flower-renegade John LaRoche, The Orchid Thief. While my personal history of plant poaching is limited to witnessing a friend saw a giant sunflower in half at a roundabout near Vauxhall station with her house keys — I can say the underlying story of what could shallowly be dismissed as, ‘a film about a flower’, is incredibly fascinating. Spoiler alert: Ghost Orchid gots those drugs in them all the kids are doing these days. But I’m jumping ahead, as you often do after snorting a line of plant fertilizer.
But 2002 was a simpler time, wasn’t it? Mainly because Nicolas Cage wasn’t yet the bonafide action adventure box-office infection he is today. Oh you know, before he was the stain on the immaculate Coppola legacy. I digress… and in 2002 with the release of “Adaptation”, viewers have the delectable pleasure of experiencing a film, within a film, within a book, within a mind. Heavy stuff, right? An astoundingly talented cast to the likes of Meryl (Drink), Nicolas Cage playing twins (Cage in his farewell performance as a “respected thespian”) Chris Cooper (legend… with or without a full set of teeth), Tilda Swinton (exponentially less creepy than her average creepiness), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Goddess and girl-crush extraordinaire), Brian Cox (who is Scottish apparently) and the incredibly, sinfully underrated and beyond talented Judy Greer (yes, she’s in that….and yep, that movie too….yes, she’s the best friend, again, that’s her) are directed by the ever delicious cinematic nerd-alert that is Spike Jonze. So fuse all of this collective genius together under the influence of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, and what do you have? You have a film of performances that transcends the idea generic preconception of story-based structure. You have a narrative that interrogates that small space existing at the intersection of reality and the articulation of creative process. Kaufman’s characters embody the seeming transition of on-going ‘adaptation’ in their own way: Charlie Kaufman the character is victim to paralyzing writer’s block apprehension about the future while John LaRoche drowns in guilt of a revisited and subsequently reconstructed past; but always their dual reactions are to their “now” circumstance. Ricocheting from one narrative strand to another, Kaufman examines metamorphosis and transformation in its varied forms. Susan Orlean and the character of Charlie Kaufman experience a drastic deviation from their supposed “norm”. He is plagued by his insecurities and doubt as she blossoms (annnd flower pun, drink) through the new found passion of romantic love. But screenwriter Kaufman’s ultimate success for me is his presentation of adaptation as process, the continual slow burn of obsession, infatuation and desire. Without these impulses and questions we aren’t human are we? What are we, like, flowers? (Warning Number 2: As delicious as this Vanilla Ghost Orchid tipple is, tend to them carefully. Initially, one may think guzzling the drinks ingredients as quickly as possible will somehow enhance their understanding and appreciation of this fabulous Jonze/Kaufman collaboration but now, you’ll probably end up drunk, unsettled and weeping throughout the second act in its entirety. Just saying….).
Meryl’s portrayal of the very successful New Yorker journalist of nearly twenty years is no departure from her luminous track record of genuine, honest, heart wrenching performances. Oh, and she does snort heaps of plant drugs (but I digress…). Meryl’s Susan Orlean is desperate for passion, for an emotional fulfillment of want and purpose. The cast is brilliant top to bottom and I am the first person in the queue of ‘’TOLD YA SO!” to receive my caning and admit that Nicolas Cage does Academy of Arts and Motion pictures recognized fat, repulsive and psychotically neurotic pitch perfect. Good on you Nick.
“Best script I’ve ever read” Meryl once told me over drinks (and by drinks I mean my extensive YouTube research of the ‘Meryl Streep Interview Archives’). The beautifully deranged brilliance of Charlie Kaufman’s narrative mind explores struggle and limitations that infect often the process of our growth. The character of Charlie Kaufman explores this through his frustrations and creative impotence in a screenwriting adaptation of a best selling novel; all the while Meryl’s Susan Orlean struggles to find any type of passion to simply validate her day to day existence, to deflect her numbness and to immerse herself simply, in something she loves. Through the parallel, and briefly overlapping narratives of Susan and Charlie, viewers swallow a heavy helping of the reoccurring interrogation of how do we define our passions, how we pursue our passions? And simply, how can we best exist, us selfish people, without hurting anyone around us? Is that even possible?
Like its supreme Jonze/Kaufman collaboration predecessor (Bonus: Drink for every “Being John Malkovich” cameo), “Adaptation” is playful, clever and unapologetically self-referential and self-aware as is seems to playfully wrestle its own reflection in the mirror. Kaufman’s matrix of characters and relationships are tightly constructed and bound in the ever-changing process of adaptation. Kaufman is masterful. As is Jonze’s direction. As is Meryl’s performance. I’ve always said that. And if there’s only one other thing I’ve always said, it’s that snorting fleshly fertilized orchid powder is the portal to personal enlightenment. So tipple hard (not too hard, no one wants to cry when Nicolas Cage is involved, now do they?) folks to the brilliance of Meryl and one of the best ensemble performances since—well, since Meryl looked in the mirror this morning.
Meryl’s performance in 2002’s “Adaptation” marks her 13th Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Now, there are not enough hours in the day to adequately articulate the atrocity of the Academy’s snub of Meryl for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in favor of Catherine Zeta Jones’ prison vixen Velma Kelly in “Chicago”. (Think the Kate Winslet farce we have previously discussed at length and inevitably will return to at some point, but worse). Just know that I don’t like it, I don’t like it at all. Apparently in February of 2003, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts had a temporary identity crisis and became the Academy of Pregnant Tap dancing Welsh mothers. Well done all. I hope you can all sleep at night on your pillow of lies.