Stranger Than Fiction

Go see it. Go see it now.

Really, that's the gist of my argument. Stranger Than Fiction was delightful -- it's particularly so for people who enjoy writing, books, and the telling of stories. I expected the sky to fall as I exited the theater because I actually enjoyed a Will Ferrell movie... and what is more, I thought he was great.

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS Agent with a solitary, regimented life that doesn't change... until one day, he hears someone narrating his regimented life. She has a British accent and knows that he brushes his teeth with 76 strokes (38 up, 38 down). She knows that he ties his tie the way he does to save time. She knows that he thinks of an endless ocean of paper as he files. She is Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a writer who can't quite figure out how to end her novel... her novel where Harold Crick is the protagonist. But Harold Crick is real (though Eiffel believes him to be her fictional creation) and he tries to cope with her narration infringing upon his daily life. He audits a baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who he falls for, and seeks guidance from an English professor (Dustin Hoffman) who tries to help him decide if his story is a comedy (life affirming, ends in marriage) or a tragedy (ends in death). When Harold hears Karen say, "Little does he know that events had been set in motion that would lead to his imminent death," he sets out to find Karen and convince her not to kill him.

Ferrell is delightfully minimal in his acting. There are few typically Ferrell scenes (in fact, the most disgusting bits come from Thompson, who spits in napkins to extinguish her cigarettes) and his restraint shows impressive levels of acting from Ferrell that I hadn't ever thought possible. Thompson was wonderfully odd and prickly. Hoffman was a great literature professor, concerned more with the plot and his theory of everything than the fact that this is a man's life. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a bitchy baker with a soft side that refuses to pay a certain percentage of her taxes -- the percentage that supports the issues that she does not. My only qualm is that I don't see what she sees in the protagonist as a romantic partner as he plays the straight man. Ah well, a small flaw that I'm willing to overlook for the whole. Oh, and the watch doesn't get enough emphasis after the beginning. That's all I'll say.

In short, go see it. Here's the trailer and here's A.O. Scott's review.

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