Pros:Ferrell and the cast involved; quite a thought-provoking movie
Cons:Those looking for an over-the-top Ferrell will be disappointed
The Bottom Line: Stranger Than Fiction proved to turn out something totally different from my first perceived notion, and it was a delightful surprise.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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I was hoodwinked.
Having Will Ferrell in any film spells bust-a-gut laughter without a second thought. It is guaranteed that he is going to make an ass out of himself in some way. Thats why Stranger The Fiction threw that proverbial curveball at me when it slapped me in the face.
Harold Crick is an IRS auditor, who follows a predictable routine each and every day, and quite a mundane one at that. There doesnt seem to be any deviation in his life at all. In fact, all he seems to have in his life is his work. But lately he has been hearing a strange voice narrating his life to him. It tells him how many times he brushes his teeth, how many steps he walks to the bus station, and how many minutes he spends on his coffee break. This concerns him and he seeks advice from first a shrink, then from Jules Hilbert, a literature professor.
Along the way, he is assigned to audit Ana Pascal, a baker who has deliberately held back on paying part of her taxes. She loathes him because he represents the authoritarian mindset that she hates. But as they say, opposite attract.
And the mysterious voice belongs to Karen Eiffel, an author who is in the twilight of finishing her latest novel and whose protagonist is named Harold Crick. Her written word affects Harolds daily activity. And the only way her novel is going to end is by killing Mr. Crink. Obviously, Harold doesnt want that to happen at all.
Will Ferrell prove he is equally adept playing a dramatic role as he is in a comedic one. The unnerving aspect is watching him play the straight-laced character. I keep half expecting him to go into his manic phase, ala Jim Carey, but he doesnt. I think thats the most disturbing thing about this film.
The strength of the movie also lie with the rest of the cast. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Ana Pascal), Dustin Hoffman (Jules Hilbert), and Emma Thompson (Karen Eiffel) do superb jobs in their roles. Each of them plays an important role in bringing out a self-awareness in Harold that he never realized he was missing.
There were times, in the beginning, that I thought he was breaking the Fourth Wall (I learned that from comic books) as he was talking to the narrator. But it turned out to be something completely different. Theres a symbiotic link between the authors written word and Crinks daily life.
And two things started to emerge for me as I became fascinated with this device.
First, on an existential level, it makes me wonder if there is someone out there writing my lifes story and is it unfolding the way it is according to the script? Is someone really pulling my strings? (and I bet I will hear a unanimous yes for that) Where does free will come into play?
And the second, perhaps even more poignant to all of this, is how I want people to remember me if I somehow managed to take an unexpected dirt nap. Have I made a significant difference in my own life to make somewhat of an impact for others to remember? This is the revelation Harold Crick begins to understand. What is his life all about and whom is he living it for? I cant believe a Will Ferrell movie is making me think in a more profound manner. Go figure.
Stranger Than Fiction is not a typical Ferrell movie by any means, yet, undoubtedly, it is a Ferrell movie. Throughout the movie, I was waiting for that punch line only to realize that I am the punch line. I was looking for a comedic Ferrell only to realize, in the end, that he delivered something much more to think about. Damn you, Ferrell. I hate getting hoodwinked.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older