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Stranger Than Fiction

Published November 9, 2006 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Columbia Pictures.
Stranger Than Fiction Poster Stranger Than Fiction
Stranger than Fiction asks us to believe that the main character is living in the book written by a great author. That’s setting up a tough act to follow. What if the author they’ve created isn’t that great, and you’re stuck for two hours watching a guy live a mediocre book? Fortunately, they stepped up their game to avoid that.

Stranger Than Fiction Review

One morning, IRS auditor Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) hears the voice of author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) describing everything he’s doing. It’s just annoying at first, as she distracts him from normal functioning and actually causes many of the mishaps she’s describing. But soon she reveals that he is about to die, so he must figure out how to thwart his own demise. Only a literary professor (Dustin Hoffman) and a potential love interest (Maggie Gyllenhaal) can help him.

They certainly create the world of living in a novel well. Eiffel is the quintessential pretentious author. Who really needs to know what a wrist watch is thinking? Honestly.

Humor comes from the awkwardness of saying insanity as if it were reality. Yeah, sometimes it’s the old “Will Ferrell looks like he’s talking to himself” bit, but usually it’s addressing some literary or philosophical concept in casual conversation.

A lot of the humor is also from Ferrell’s helpless scream. He’s not bouncing off the walls in this movie, not even saying anything more outrageous than the concept of the movie already is. But he’s so desperate, just trying to be ordinary, that’s when the Ferrell shows through.

He portrays a real human reaction to extraordinary circumstances. He gets angry and desperate, usually sad. The intellectual analysis of the phenomenon is awesome too. Even outside of the narrator thing, characters deeply analyzing hypotheticals is also funny.

The concept holds up throughout the entire film, and expertly so. Even in a stretch where the narration stops, you never forget that you’re watching a guy living a novel. It’s all about finding one’s place in the story, so even without the gimmick, it totally works, and it doesn’t pound it over the head

The story is ultimately touching and bittersweet. It could be tragic, or it could work out, but either way you feel for the character.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Columbia Pictures.

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