Stranger Than Fiction

 
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by:Zach Helm
Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson
Released: February 1, 2007
Grade: B+

Harold Crick (Ferrell) is a very ordinary man.  He routinely goes about each day and never does anything unexpected.  Each day, he wakes up at the same time, brushes his teeth with the same number of strokes and catches the same bus to work.  It’s always the same.

That is until one morning when Harold wakes up and hears a voice in his head.  It’s the sound of someone narrating his life.  He doesn’t recognise the voice but it knows exactly who Harold is and what he’s thinking.  Not only is the voice annoying but it’s disrupting Harry’s life.  He can’t concentrate at work and his regimented lifestyle is being disrupted.

Harold’s worries escalate when the narrator hints at Harold’s “imminent death”.  Looking for an expert in storytelling, he finds a literary professor by the name of Jules Hilbert (Hoffman) who wants to help out.  Jules thinks that somehow, Harold must be a character in an unfinished novel.  Harold’s fate rests in the typing hands of its author.  There’s only one way he can saved – Harold must find this narrator and tell her to stop writing.

As Harold looks for answers, a romantic interest is introduced.  Her name is Ana Pascal (Gyllenhaal) and she runs a small bakery.  After a fiery introduction, the unlikely pair hit it off.  They share a dry sense of humour and are soon spending more time together.  How will it end though?  Is Harold’s narrator writing a comedy or a tragedy?

This bizarre idea for a movie reminded me of two great screenplays written by Charlie Kaufman - Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.  Both were masterpieces which blended fiction and reality in a way I could never have imagined.  Stranger Than Fiction deserves praise for its originality but it’s not the equal of Malkovich or Adaptation.  It doesn’t have enough momentum to keep me intrigued for two hours.  I almost wish they had of taken this strange concept further.

The characters within this tale are all peculiar.  Emma Thompson’s performance as the film’s chain-smoking narrator didn’t sit well with me.  I think she’s too over-the-top.  My favourite scenes in the film were those shared by Dustin Hoffman and Will Ferrell.  It will be interesting to see if Ferrell can use this film to move into more dramatic roles (as opposed to his usual comedies).

If you’re a cinemagoer who is looking for something different, Stranger Than Fiction delivers on most counts.