Adaptation is a film lover's movie. Directed by Spike Jonze and released in 2002, it’s a fabulous film with three overlapping themes which merge the boundaries between fiction and reality.
The central theme deals with the trials and tribulations of the insecure and quirky screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (a virtually unrecognizable Nicholas Cage). Kaufman is, in fact, the screenwriter of Adaptation (and Being John Malkovich) who wrote himself into the screenplay as the protagonist.
Kaufman's screen character lives in Los Angeles with his twin brother Donald (also played by Cage), a budding and less talented screenwriter. Donald is Charlie's carefree and goofy alter ego and the two bicker about screenwriting methodology, which is hysterical and constantly pokes fun at L.A. movie biz politics. Cage obviously has a lot of fun with the double role.
In the film, Charlie struggles to adapt the novel The Orchid Thief (a real book) written by Susan Orlean (the real author) into a screenplay. Susan Orlean is brought to life in Adaptation by the great Meryl Streep. Interested? You should be.
The second theme tells the wildly colorful and woe-be-gone story of John Laroche (Chris Cooper) eccentric horticulturalist, orchid hunter and the subject of The Orchid Thief. Laroche uses a crew from the Seminole Native American Indians to extract the rare Ghost Orchid, among other endangered plant varieties out of the swampland of the Fachahatchi Strand in south Florida. Laroche's character is larger-than-life and Cooper steals the picture, earning the approval of the real-life Laroche; he also scored an Oscar for best supporting actor.
Lastly, the film is about flowers and the fanatic collectors who love them, but it does not stop there. Adaptation is about nature, evolution, beauty, struggle, love lost, love found, love gone wrong. It's about longing, danger, obsession, mystery, passion and the ability for both nature and human beings to adapt to change. It's great. Trust me.
There is only one grape varietal for this film and that is Viognier. A white grape, Viognier is an ancient and today somewhat obscure varietal, originally brought to the Rhone Valley in France by the Romans way back when.
It is appropriate for this film for a few reasons. It is difficult to grow and the vines produce low yields that are highly prone to mildew. Viognier must be harvested only when perfectly ripe to express the wine's structure and glorious nose, which is totally floral. If harvested too early it's flabby and too late it's oily.
Moreover, Viognier was almost extinct due to the plague of the Phylloxera louse in France in the late-1800s, coupled with the abandonment of French vineyards in WWI. Viognier is a rare beauty and today is planted not only in France but increasingly in California and Australia. If you can find it, buy it.
I chose the Calera Viognier 2006 ($26.95 CDN, $18.99 USD) for you to enjoy with this film, which hails from California's Central Coast Mt. Halan vineyards. It's fresh and lively and has the floral Viognier nose you want, if perhaps a little less delicate than its French contemporaries.
In the careful and traditionalist hands of winemaker Josh Jensen, this Viognier has a slightly darker yellow hue and is so smooth on the palate, with flavors of peach and look for spicy undertones. At 14.9 percent alcohol, it's a powerful wine and is the perfect companion for this film.
Jill Vanderkooy, Sommelier and certifiable bon vivant, has worked in the wine industry for over 10 years, has been drinking wine for 25 years and is a true devotee of film across all genres. Her liver thanks you for reading.