Monday, November 13, 2006
Movie Review: Stranger Than Fiction
Directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland), it see-saws between comedy and drama.
Stranger Than Fiction, directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland), see-saws between comedy and drama. Will Ferrell, who has made a career out of being a lovable and arrogant asshole, stars as the calm, asocial Harold Crick, a worn and mellowed-out IRS agent (is there any other kind?) who lives and dies by his pre-programmed wristwatch.
The twist comes when Harold wakes one Wednesday morning and goes about his daily routine. While brushing each side of his teeth the traditional thirty-eight times, Harold hears a voice. Instead of telling him to burn things, as most voices tend to do, the voice actually narrates in detail the things that Harold does as he does them. Harold then goes berserk.
In the meantime, we find out that the narrator is a struggling author named Karren Eiffel (played by Emma Thompson) who is unaware that Harold exists, and therefore intends to kill Harold off as soon as she can figure out the ideal way. Fortunately for Harold, Effiel is struggling with a ten-year-long case of writer’s block, and despite imagining vivid death scenes, she just can’t seem to conjure up the death that fits Harold best. At least not yet.
Having endured the voice guiding his life for a few days, Harold eventually realizes that it, or her, intends to kill him off. Harold then enlists the aid of Jules Hilbert, a local literature professor played by the wonderfully-awkward Dustin Hoffman.
At the advice of Hilbert, Harold cautiously goes about his day, tallying the good things and the bad things that happen to him, in an attempt to figure out if his story—his life—is a comedy or a tragedy. Similarly, Stranger Than Fiction continually shifts between the two genres; you can’t help but giggle at Ferrell's passive-aggressive bewilderment with the ridiculousness of the world around him, and you can’t help but relate to the alienation and boredom that permeates his day-to-day existence.
Ferrell gives the most sincere performance of his career thus far. Like fellow funny-man turned drama-star, Jim Carrey (both of whom, along with Chris Kattan, had some troubles getting into Roxbury), Ferrell gives a sincere and moving performance that’s neither dry nor sappy.