Classic Movie Review: Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Comedy, Romance
Tags: ,

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Harold Crick (Will Farrell) is an I.R.S. agent with a very regimented life.  He brushes his teeth with a certain amount of brush strokes, he walks the same distance to the bus stop every day, he takes the same amount of time for lunch every day.  He eats alone, he sleeps alone and the next day the regimen starts all over again.  Except now he hears a voice in his head, narrating the day.  The narrator (Emma Thompson) narrates his whole day, from morning to night.  While hearing the voice in his head, Harold is also auditing a quirky bakery shop owner, named Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who despises Harold, because he represents the establishment.  But from the moment Harold sees Ana’s tattooed body, he knows he wants her, lust soon turns to love, and Harold decides not to live such a regimented life. He takes up the guitar, and starts wearing sweaters instead of a suit and tie with a single Windsor knot.  Just then, the narrator tells Harold of his impending death.  Harold decides to ask a literary professor, Jules Hibbert (Dustin Hoffman) not a psychiatrist to help identify the voice in his head.  Who is this narrator?  How does she know Harold is going to die?  Can Professor Hibbert help Harold identify the voice of the narrator?

I love Stranger Than Fiction.  It’s got such an interesting concept and the concept is almost fully realized.  All the comedy, all the sadness of a everyman facing his own mortality is wrung out of this beautifully written script.   It’s an acerbic satire of writers, most people think of writers as detached, genteel, well-educated, omnipotent people.  This movie turns that impression on its head, according to this movie, writers are chain-smoking neurotic, verbose, egomaniacs with a God complex.  This movie is more than a scathing satire of writers, it’s an existential comedy, if there is such a thing.  The questions brought to mind are, who created us and why.  What if that creator decided to snuff out our lives, just as we were starting to enjoy ourselves?  Could we talk to our creator, as Job did in the Bible?  What would happen after such an intervention?  I’m sure the writer wasn’t thinking of Job, but that’s what this movie made me think of.  I said the concept was almost fully realized because the writer, Zack Helm, wrote an ending that I hated for this movie, and that made an otherwise flawless movie have a big flaw.

This is a beautifully acted movie.  Will Ferrell gives up his usual oafish buffoonery, for a quiet understated, performance.  Not that I don’t enjoy his occasional buffoonery like Frank the Tank or Ron Burgundy, but this movie and Elf show he’s capable of so much more.  He’s capable of playing, sweet, gentle,  vulnerable characters, and this movie shows that side of him.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is absolutely irresistible as a perky, sassy, sensual, goddess of the counterculture. Emma Thompson absolutely steals the movie as the narrator, yes there is voice over narration, but it’s used to hilarious effect.  Dustin Hoffman is wonderful, trying to figure out the ridiculous situation he’s presented with, his humor is at its driest. And Queen Latifah, when given a good script shines, with superb comic timing, even with the rapid-fire dialog she is given.  Everybody is at their best here.

Stranger Than Fiction.  It’s a fact, this is a great film.

 

 

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