Movies: No Good-Time Charlie

It's hard to write when you're down in the dumps. Just ask Charlie Kaufman. Having written the deliriously original Being John Malkovich, he's hired to adapt Susan Orlean's nonfiction best seller The Orchid Thief. It's a meditative, philosophical, nonlinear narrative, totally resistant to conventional screenwriting technique. Charlie, played with morose and hilarious authority by Nicolas Cage, immediately develops an XXL-size writer's block.

It is not dissolved by stalking Orlean (Meryl Streep) to discover her writerly secrets. Or by enrolling in one of the infamous screenwriting seminars given by Robert McKee (Brian Cox). It is certainly not eased by Kaufman's best...