(In theaters, January 2003) Brilliant at times, unsatisfying at others, Adaptation is a frustrating film that either mishandles a boffo premise, or exploits it in a way that won’t please everyone. Yes, I get the joke, that a screenwriter struggling with an adaptation wrote a script as if written by two screenwriters about the process of two screenwriters adapting a book. (Whew!) Yes, I know where reality and fiction leave off. Yes, I realize that the third act is written by “Donald” the lovable hack. But somehow, the last third also forgets to have fun and for such an amusing premise, it’s surprising to see how much Adaptation takes itself seriously at times. What could have been full of winks to the audience instead feels sloppy and unfocused. It is a deliberate artistic choice, of course, but is it the most appropriate one? Would this have been a better film if “Donald” had written the first two-third, and Charles the rest? What if the dual-personality sub-theme had been explicitly exploited? As someone with (amateur) screenwriting experience, I like anything about the creative process and love even more “wacky” movies, and yet found myself wishing for more, more, more in the latter third of the film: You’re screwing with the audience, Charlie, but why not push it even further? Was the coda truly necessary in light of the “mess up the audience” manifesto? What about the insufficient exploitation of the alternate meaning of “adaptation”? Couldn’t anything more be done with this? Where’s Robert McKee when you need him?