Chapter 11 – The Business
Charlie Kaufman goes nuts trying to write a screenplay adaptation of a book about flowers.
Charlie Kaufman, a neurotic screenwriter renowned for his eccentrically brilliant scripts, is eager to dive into his new assignment, an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, a nonfiction book about flowers and a renegade botanist. Charlie is determined to stay true to the book’s elusive nature, refusing to Hollywoodize the story. As he re-reads his dog-eared book, he follows Orlean as she follows the “orchid thief” through the Florida swamps. But he goes nuts trying to get a handle on the story, a situation not improved by his rampant insecurities and the persistent hounding of his twin brother Donald, a screenwriter wannabe and disciple of Robert McKee. Things only get more tangled when Charlie makes himself the protagonist of his own script.
Charlie Kaufman, a neurotic screenwriter renowned for his eccentrically brilliant scripts, is eager to dive into his new assignment, an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, a nonfiction book about flowers and a renegade botanist named John Laroche. Charlie is determined to stay true to the book’s elusive nature—it’s about flowers and evolution and disappointment. He will not Hollywoodize this material.
As he pores over his dog-eared copy of the book, Charlie follows Orlean (in his mind’s eye) as she follows Laroche through the swamps of Florida. Orlean, a New Yorker intellectual, is amused then fascinated by Laroche, a gamey man with no front teeth who has a magical kinship with the natural world. Effusions of plant life in the hothouse climate of the swamps. Life primeval. Charlie is intoxicated by the material. But he can’t get a handle on how to write the screenplay. No matter what, though—he will not Hollywoodize this material.
Charlie finds it difficult to focus for three reasons 1) he doesn’t know how the story should work 2) his love life (or lack thereof) causes intense frustration and frequent humiliation 3) his twin brother Donald, a wannabe screenwriter is living with him, hounding Charlie about his own screenplay as he spouts wisdom from screenwriting guru Robert McKee. (Charlie marvels that they come from the same DNA.)
Bolts of inspiration occasionally come. The story’s about the natural order. It’s about Orlean’s evolution as a person. It’s about Charlie himself. Sure, why not put himself in the story? But the screenplay refuses to take root. The deadline comes. The agent pesters. Donald finishes his script, a ridiculously hackneyed serial murder thriller. The agent actually likes Donald’s script. And still…Charlie has nothing.
Desperately stuck, Charlie attends McKee’s screenwriting seminar. Charlie asks McKee if it’s okay to have a screenplay in which not much happens, a story that reflects the way life really is. McKee bellows to the heavens that Charlie knows nothing about life. The seminar hall falls silent. After the seminar Charlie follows McKee, who advises him over a drink to focus on the ending. If the ending is great, the audience will walk away satisfied.
Charlie enlists Donald to collaborate with him on the screenplay. Together they dream up (and live through, as we see a movie within a movie) a fantastic final act. The brothers discover the truth about Orlean and Laroche—they are smuggling a rare orchid from which a cocaine-like drug is extracted, all the while living in a sleazy state of sex and delirium. Charlie and Donald track down the nefarious pair in the swamps of Florida. Laroche accidentally shoots Donald and, as Charlie rushes his brother to the hospital, a vehicle crashes into them, killing Donald. Anguish! Charlie goes after Laroche, who aims a rifle at Charlie. But miraculously…at the crucial moment an alligator devours Laroche. Through his adventures, Charlie learns to overcome his insecurities and live his life to the fullest.
A perfect Hollywood ending.<< Back