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Adaptation

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Image credit: Adaptation, 2002

If you follow me on social media, then you know I’m an orchid mom. That’s right, I enjoy caring for one of the most delicate plants in nature, all for the promise of a few blooms. I like to watch as they die and resurrect themselves, over and over, like a superhero franchise. They’ve been a joy, a distraction, and an inspiration as I revise and write and revise again, hoping maybe this time, the right words will magically fall into place. Thus I can say with absolute certainty, Adaptation (Disc/Download) is a perfect film for the orchid-obsessed, and for anybody who’s ever struggled to make a story “work”.

Loosely based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Adaptation is Charlie Kaufman’s wild meta tale of a screenwriter’s quest to turn this book into a movie. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie, and he also plays Charlie’s fictional twin brother Donald, who stumbles into screenwriting like a NaNoWriMo newbie. Charlie writes smart, character-driven stories, while Donald’s are mostly plot-driven, using the formula he learned in a ridiculous workshop. Where things get weird is when the script Charlie is writing (which we see in cuts to Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean and Chris Cooper as John Laroche, subject of The Orchid Thief) slowly morphs into a “Donald script”, going completely off the rails as Charlie loses all sense of his own voice, and what he was originally trying to say. It’s a strange, bizarre twist, showing the audience what happens when people follow the formulas: we get crappy movies that focus more on outlandish plots than character development. One wonders if Nicholas Cage has exclusively been picking “Donald movies” for the past decade, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, back to the orchids. I love watching John Laroche wax poetic about the beauty and struggle of his obsession, and Orlean’s look of wonder at all the rare varieties mirrors my own. While watching Adaptation, I recommend drinking a Flower Show cocktail.

Flower Show

1 Egg White

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Crème de Violette

1/2 oz Cointreau

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake until frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass.

One thing the movie never discusses (and I wish it did) is the rebirth of this plant. An orchid can appear completely dead, stripped of all its beautiful blooms, but with enough care and attention, it’ll start to grow again. There’s something comforting in this, knowing that even when all hope seems lost, the thing you loved might not be gone forever. Maybe, like a writer huddled over a keyboard, it can just be… temporarily blocked. Cheers!

Juliet, Naked

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juliet naked

Image credit: Juliet, Naked, 2018

I did a horrible thing. When making my Top Five Films of 2018 list a few months ago, I neglected to include the sweetly perfect rom-com Juliet, Naked (Disc/Download). My only excuse is that I simply didn’t get a chance to see it in 2018.   However I seem to be making up for lost time because I’m on viewing #3 so far, and like a fine wine, it just keeps getting better with age.

Speaking of things getting better with age, I can’t watch this movie and not imagine that Tucker Crowe is Troy Dyer all grown up and regretting his younger Reality Bites shenanigans. A slacker alt-rocker who treats women like crap but is soooo beautiful in all the vintage gig photos? I mean, come on.  Did Ethan Hawke choose this part on purpose, as a meta nod to his iconic role? His casting seems to reinforce an important principle of the movie—that, “Art is not for the artist, any more than water is to a plumber.”  Honestly, as a Reality Bites fan, I want to see what became of Troy Dyer.  Is he still stealing Snickers Bars?  Did he ever get a chance to buy everyone a Coke? Maybe, like Chris O’Dowd’s obsessed character Duncan, I’m reading too much into all of this. Maybe Ethan Hawke just wanted a fun part where he got to sing a Kinks song. Maybe he really liked the Nick Hornby novel this movie was based on. But whatever the truth may be, I still consider Juliet, Naked to be a delightful wink to the members of the TroyDyer4Ever club (if this is not yet a fan club, I’m thinking of starting it).

Ethan Hawke’s endurance as an heartthrob aside, the film’s soul truly lies with beautiful, shy Annie, played by the lovely Rose Byrne.  Annie finds herself stuck in a rut, realizing that she let life carry her along without making any big decisions. But then she meets Tucker, comes out of her shell, and realizes that her story is just beginning. Let’s toast this wonderful performance with a Blossoming Rosé cocktail.

Blossoming Rosé

5 oz Rosé cider

1.5 oz Reposado tequila

1.5 oz Grapefruit Juice

.5 oz Lime Juice

.5 oz Mint-infused simple syrup

Grapefruit Wedge for garnish

Combine tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then pour into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with cider, and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Blossoming Rose

Ultimately, Juliet, Naked is about taking chances. Taking a chance that you’re going to make the wrong decisions, that you’re going to mess up a little bit, but that nothing good will ever happen if you don’t seize the opportunities life throws at you. If Tucker is my cautionary tale, then Annie is my inspiration. And Duncan, well—he’s just Stevie F*ckin’ Wonder. Cheers!