Stranger Than Fiction
DVD | LP
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Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, a lonely IRS agent whose mundane existence is transformed when he hears a mysterious voice narrating his life. With the help of Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold discovers he's the main character in a novel-in-progress and that the voice belongs to Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an eccentric author famous for killing her main characters in creative ways. Harold must quickly track down Eiffel and stop her before she conjures up a way to finish him off.
Much was written about Will Ferrell's first "dramatic role" as Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who begins hearing a voice narrating his life. But Stranger Than Fiction is hardly a drama. However, what Ferrell does--like Jim Carrey before him in The Truman Show--is handle a toned-down character with genuineness and affection: you believe he is this guy. Crick leads a lonely life filled with numbers and routines. While at first he considers the voice a nuisance, Crick decides more action is needed when it speaks of "his demise." Enter Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), who takes on the absurd notion with revelry, trying to find out what kind of book Crick's life is leading. It turns out that the voice Crick is hearing belongs to Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a very real--and troubled--author who is writing a book in which Crick is a fictional character. As usual with these things, the stuffed shirt learns to live a better life--Crick even falls for one of his audits, a brash baker named Ana (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Marc Foster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland) has the right tone for the film, using great urban scenes (the unnamed city is Chicago) with interesting visualizations of Crick's world of numbers. He also directs Ferrell, Hoffman, and Gyllenhaal to their most charming performances (plus Linda Hunt and Tom Hulce pop up in two funny scenes). Ferrell succeeds in being a romantic lead you can root for; a scene where he eats Ana's freshly baked cookies is totally delightful without a hint of sarcasm. Screenwriter Zach Helm has two personal traits with his story: like Crick he followed his heart (he stopped rewriting scripts and only worked on his own) and like Eiffel, the final results are not a masterpiece, but good, and entertaining enough. Britt Daniel of the band Spoon worked on the dynamite soundtrack.--Doug Thomas
Extras from Stranger Than Fiction
"Counting Brush Strokes," A featurette
on the filming of Stranger Than Fictionhigh bandwidth
A clip from the film
Queen Latifah on working with Emma Thompson
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Beyond Stranger Than Fiction on Amazon.com
Comic Actors Go Dramatic
Emma Thompson Essentials
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The story is unique, yet makes delightful literary references to the standard tropes and pays homage to what has come before. The writing is lyrical, witty, honest, and full of dry humor, leaving me with an intense desire to read the books by the character Karen Eiffel. Overall, this is the best written movie I have ever seen due to the imagery in the words matching the imagery in the visual medium in a magical way that transports the viewer into the movie the way a great book transports the reader into the world, the wonderfully handled inherent awkwardness of the concept of the fantastical intruding on the ordinary, and the dialog that has you crying from laughing so hard and crying from the tragedy of the sacrifice.
The music is perfect at emphasizing the moments of love, awkwardness, joy, discovery, sacrifice, and heartbreak. You know that it's a good soundtrack when you don't even notice the music because it helps heighten the emotions of the scene rather than distract from them.
The special effects are impeccably done to highlight the story and the characters, helping to establish the underlying nature of the main character's neurotic counting as well as instilling a sense of whimsy, as seen in the subtle shifting of the clouds behind Harold in the HR office as he thinks about Ana. It's easy to suspend disbelief in this movie because all of the characters feel like real people, so even though the core concept is fantastical, it feels plausible.
If you liked Punch Drunk Love, you'll love Stranger Than Fiction. It's the best movie since Shawshank Redemption, hands down. Visually compelling and brilliantly acted by Will Farrell, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman, STF takes a quirky, "insider" look at the connection between fate and free will. While sometimes a bit too "on the nose", the subtext and interweaving story lines are enough to keep impatient viewers thinking and emotionally invested in the characters from start to finish. Contrary to the marketing behind the film, this is not a typical Will Farrell comedy. As a matter of fact, it's hardly a comedy at all, although there are many funny moments. The studio tried to market this film as Will Farrell's follow up to Old School, which it was absolutely not. This left Farrell fans confused and disappointed rather than excited at the prospect that Will Farrell can actually excel in the lead role of a dramatic film. I've read critical reviews of the movie who complained that the movie wasn't funny, and didn't know whether or not it was a comedy or a drama. I think those critics missed the point completely. It's a great movie that addresses a very serious subject matter in a creative, light-hearted manner, while remaining thought-provoking and intellectually resolute in its "quest" to demonstrate that sometimes fate can be greater than free will.
It's crazy but insightful, and also has great actors like Dustin Hoffman, Will Ferrell (whom I normally don't really like but the perfect person for this film), and Emma Thompson who is great!