Saturday, 19 September 2020
Stranger Than Fiction
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 14 November 2006 21:22

Wait a minute… this IS fiction!

When you read the words “Will Ferrell’s most moving performance”, you might think to yourself “Compared to what?” After all, Ferrell isn’t known for tour de force dramatic departures. Best known as Buddy the Elf, or arrogant Anchorman Ron Burgundy, he always brings innocence and honesty to strange, over-the-top characters. Happily, he brings that same honesty to a more dramatic role in Stranger Than Fiction.

Ferrell plays Harold Crick whose mundane and orderly existence suits him just fine. He lives alone in a tidy little apartment and works as an IRS agent, the perfect career for someone who lives by the book. His trusty wristwatch helps keep him on schedule so that each day plays out the same as the last. But one day, things change. Harold starts to hear a voice in his head, one that is narrating his own life as it is happening! He consults a shrink whose idea of advice is medication, so he moves on to a literature professor named Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman). Hilbert is skeptical but intrigued and assigns Harold homework such as deciding whether his story is a comedy or a tragedy. The answer to that comes when Harold’s narrator begins foreshadowing his imminent death!

In the same city, author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is musing on the impeding death of her latest character. Will he fall from a building? Drive off a bridge? Contract a disease? Despite her very vivid and morbid imaginings none of these seem right. She smokes pack after pack trying to overcome writer’s block. How will she kill Harold Crick? Little does she know that her character is very real and that what she writes is determining his fate!

This is a thought provoking movie that lands smack in the middle of comedy, drama, romance and fantasy. The irony of the situation is that Harold’s life may be a tragedy, but in fact the audience sees it as comedy. Should Harold die for great art? If Eiffel’s book is destined to be a masterpiece, is it worth laying down his life for? He doesn’t want to die, especially now that life has finally gotten interesting, but at least his death would be meaningful. These kinds of questions abound, putting me in mind of movies like I Heart Huckabees and Adaptation. Stranger Than Fiction is more audience friendly and will probably appeal to a wider crowd. The third movie that comes to mind is Being John Malkovich, which had a grittier presentation, but similar appeal. Fill yer boots on existentialism!

All philosophic discussion aside, Stranger Than Fiction is a very enjoyable and entertaining movie. I honestly had a goofy smile plastered to my face the entire show… and that smile didn’t disappear until a good long time afterwards!

Emma Thompson and Will Ferrell form an odd match, but they pull it off very well. I can’t imagine better casting for Harold and Kay. At first the “tough cookie” baker played by Maggie Gyllenhall grated my nerves, but she soon grew on me as her character began to soften. Dustin Hoffman is always great in these quirky roles. There is even a small role for Queen Latifah, although I find her character gets lost with very little to do.

Stranger Than Fiction is a fun and thoughtful movie with a little something for everybody. I give it 7 out of 10 stars.