Stranger Than Fiction

 Distributed by: Sony Pictures

Reviewed by Justine Manzano


     Every good writer feels a tad guilty about the things they have put their characters through.  Sometimes, it’s a divorce, sometimes, abuse.  Most times, it’s death.  Every great writer walks around for a little while with the shadow of that death on their shoulders.  Imaginitive creatures that we are, we theorize, rather existentially, that there are probably larger, greater beings, or being, depending on your belief system, who sit and script our lives, and, if that is the case, is scripting the lives we script leading to the inevitable death of a true, flesh and blood sentient creature?  While most people will think, “No, you dummy!  It’s just a story,” we writers take our creations very seriously.  Stranger Than Fiction must have arisen from this very worry.

     Stranger Than Fiction start Will Ferrell, a man whose movies I have never really enjoyed, because they are mostly filled with stupid, slapstick comedy, which is simply not my thing (except for Elf…Elf was very funny to me, for some reason…).  However, this time around he is quite brilliant as Harold Crick, a man who works as a senior analyst for the IRS and lives his life based on numbers—he even counts how many strokes he uses when he brushes his teeth.  His life is unremarkable and boring, until one day, he hears a voice, a voice that is narrating every mundane detail of his life.  He almost assumes he is crazy, but the voice knows things about him, understands his desires, his fears, his attraction to the baker he has been sent to audit (Maggie Gylenhall).  Then, one day, the narrator of his life says that Crick’s death is imminent.  Distressed, Crick goes to a psychiatrist, who tells him he is schizophrenic, but he is unwilling to believe it.  Instead, he contacts a literary professor, Jules Hibbert (Dustin Hoffman), in an attempt to figure out who this narrator is and how to deal with it. 

     As Professor Hibbert tries to figure out who the narrator can be and how Crick can avoid his death, Crick realizes that it is time for a change in his life.  He begins to romance the baker, Ana Pascal, in the hopes of turning his life into a comedy, instead of a tragedy, and learns how to play the guitar, his lifelong dream.  As Harold struggles to live his life to the fullest, he still can not determine what to do when he learns that the narrator is Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a brilliant writer who hasn’t completed a novel in ten years, and who always, ALWAYS, kills off her main character.  Can Harold stop her in time, or is Harold’s story destined to be a tragedy? 

     This movie is not what you would think, nor is it what it is advertised to be.  Despite this, it is a good movie with clever writing, both comedic and dramatic.  I was surprised at how likeable Ferrell’s portrayal of Crick was, despite the fact that I normally don’t like him in movies.  He was hilarious and endearing as this character who is surprised by the world he ends up in, and I was gripping my husband’s arm by the end of the movie, hoping against hope that Harold Crick would survive his so-called fate!  I was quite surprised by his dramatic acting chops!  Emma Thompson had all of the angst and frustration of a talented writer working at her craft.  Gyllenhall and Hoffman also played their roles with tremendous sincerity and biting wit, as did Queen Latifah, who played Kay’s assistant. 

     In the end, Stranger Than Fiction, is just that—it portrays the world of writing and character creation in an intriguing light, all the while providing us with a lovable character, who we all can’t help but attach ourselves to.  Don’t get fooled by the commercial—it’s not as funny as it looked, but it is a damn good movie, nonetheless. 

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