Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Movie Review: "Stranger Than Fiction"

Following in the footsteps of Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell takes a meta approach to his first major dramatic role. Like Carrey in The Truman Show, Ferrell stars as a man trapped in a story. Unlike TTS, Ferrell's character exists in the real world, and is actually hearing a narrator narrate his life. The narrator, played by Emma Thompson, is writing a novel that stars a unknowing Harold Crick (Ferrell). If Thompson writes it, Crick has either experienced it or will experience it.

If this sounds like a script written by twisty, metafilled Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich) you would be wrong. It is written by Zack Helm, but it does come off as Kaufman-lite. In the opening few minutes, graphics are shown to illustrate what is being narrated around what Ferrell is doing. When Ferrell hears that the narrator is planning his death, he seeks out ways to stop it. Among the people he meets are Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays his adversary then love interest, and Dustin Hoffman, who plays a literay scholar trying to help Crick find out what type of story he is in.

Crick's life is paralleled with Emma Thompson's character, Kay Eiffel. Kay is suffering from writer's block and is trying to find a way to end Harold's life and her book. Her vivid imagination pictures all the ways one can pass on, but she isn't inspired until halfway through the movie. She writes up the ending, and possibly seals the real Harold's fate.

Harold does eventually confront Eiffel, which leads to the climax of the film that is heartbreaking but well done. What is more important? A great work in death or a mundane piece with life?

There are nice little in-jokes for those who pay attention. Most of the main characters share last names with famous scientists. Crick helped discover DNA, Pascal (the last name of Maggie's character) has the unit pressure named in his honor, and Escher (the name of Queen Latifah's character who helps Eiffel) is a famous mathmetician. I am sure other people caught other jokes, but those stoof out to me.

This was an enjoyable movie. I wasn't as blown away with Ferrell's perfomance as I was with Carrey's in TTS, but I was impressed. Ferrell was restrained and exuded the dullness of Crick. The supporting cast played their roles well. The direction was excuted with precision and symbolism and the writing, as I said, was Kaufman-lite, which meant it wasn't too heavy, but it wasn't awesomely trippy either.

3 Wristwatches out of 5.


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