Stranger Than Fiction (the movie)

I can't not like a movie that ends with a Paul Weller song.  Harold Crick, the protagonist, gets on the bus and starts reading the soon-to-be-published manuscript of his life, literally.  He needs to get to the end, as his real life is intertwined with and dictated by this novel.  As he begins to read, the song "That's Entertainment", as originally played by The Jam, comes on.  (This is a horrible interjection into what seems like a critique of the movie, but in fact, is a surprising bit I'm driving at.)

The casting of this film is, strangely, fairly well done.  Although… I love Queen Latifah, but she's not convincing as a publisher's assistant.  She commands too much attention, and the chemistry just isn't there between her and Emma Thompson (who's perfect as the author and narrator, Karen Eiffel).  Everyone else, being Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gylenhall, and Will Ferrell, fits the bill.  Dustin Hoffman's role is something of a replay of the existential investigator from I Heart Huckabees.  It's ok, it works, although it's almost unbelievable that he would invest the time and energy on Crick—unless it was a curiosity—you know, something he can tuck into his "future incidents to include in a novel" folder.  But it doesn't come across that way, and that's a bit weird.  I don't know if Maggie Gyllenhall with Will Ferrell is credible, but she suits the role insofar as law-school-drop-out-turned-anarchist-baker goes.   That is, if you can ignore that she's Maggie-Gyllenhall-the-indie-queen.

I'm not a big Will Ferrell fan, and I've seen almost all his movies.  I believe these are his best two hours on film.  I think there might actually be something to him, after this movie.  Still, I'm not sure.  When he says, "I want you", it just doesn't come across the way it would if, say, Nicholas Cage (who also seems like a joker these days) said it (like in Adaptation).

I liked the closing time scene where Harold shows up with a case of taped
brown bag packages.   When asked what they are, he says, "I brought
you flours."  (Totally in-line with the character, but still not sure
if in-line with Will Ferrell the actor, although I imagine he loved
that line.)

I liked this movie but can't help thinking it could've been improved by a touch of Nick Hornby.  Critics say this is Charles Kaufman territory but I think there's something else going on here that needed just a little bit more edge.  The end drags out a bit, but one keeps watching, waiting for the announced inevitability.  I could've used a bit more narration during the author's thinking process, where she goes over two particular factors she's decided would be involved in Harold Crick's demise.  It's somewhat obvious, but keeps the story from being completely smooth.  I want to be tormented by Harold's crisis, but I'm not.  I'm curious, but not tormented.  There are other bits and pieces that make it choppy, but enough said.  It's an interesting story.  I could see a remake down the line (actually, it seems to me to have come from an old Twilight Zone episode).

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One thought on “Stranger Than Fiction (the movie)

  1. I just rented this movie about a week ago for Mom and I. We really enjoyed it. Emma Thompson is always a must see for me but Will Ferrell really did a great job too.Yesterday I rented Man of the Year with Robin Williams. That was an even better movie. I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it 🙂

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