Sunday, November 12, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: Stranger Than Fiction

I'm going to be honest with you on Friday I had my sights on seeing the film Babel. Unfortunately it was full so my wife and I had to move to plan B. Plan B of course became Stranger Than Fiction and I have to say it was a very good second choice. This is the most subdued I have ever seen Will Ferrell and he was great. Maggie Gyllenhaal was cute and Emma Thompson was amusing as a writer obsessed with the nature of death and of course how to successfully kill her leading man. I have been impressed with director Marc Forster's path so far. I have not seen his thriller Stay but I have seen Finding Neverland and Monster's Ball and they are both exceptional films.

The film takes a page from writer Charlie Kaufman as it focuses on a very anal IRS agent named Harold Crick (Will Farrell) who begins to hear a woman's voice narrating a novel about him and his actions. At first he is freaked out and then panicked when the voice hints at his possible demise. This of course puts a chink in his future plans, as he has fallen in love with anarchist baker Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). What's a guy to do.

The film has a very interesting structure that at first I did not notice but as the film continued it began to remind me of Groundhog Day, Adaptation and even Fight Club. I really need to see it again because I feel there was more there than meets the eye. The character of Harold Crick enjoys numbers and solving math equations and throughout the film they have subtlety and not so subtlety thrown in diagrams of equations and problems. To what purpose, I'm not sure but I did enjoy the random pop ups. It is a story about a guy too uptight to really live his life. Through his interaction with the disembodied voice he is allowed to take some control of his boring existence and make it the life he truly wants. This stuff has all been done before but Forster does a good job keeping pace and skewing the story enough that it doesn't feel boring or overused. Emma Thompson as a seemingly suicidal and tormented writer Kay Eiffel is unusually funny. I know she has done comedies in the past but this is the first time I noticed her in that specific category. Her character has writer's block and is having trouble finding a suitable death for her main man Harold. Dustin Hoffman was hilarious as a Literature professor trying to help Harold find the novelist before she kills him. It's hard to really review the film without giving too much away but my wife Tamar put it this way. It's what I heart Huckabees should have been. Dealing with abstract philosophies and throwing in a blend of classic literature for good measure. That might not make sense but when you see the movie you will hopefully understand. Just rest assured that Will Ferrell hearing a narration in his head that ends up annoying him is friggin hilarious and we'll leave it at that.

Grade: 4 Buckets

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