Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

Last night I saw the most thoroughly enjoyable, engaging and entertaining movie of 2006. "Stranger Than Fiction" is the outstanding new film from director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Stay") and first-time screenwriter Zach Helm (this is a guy to watch). It tells the story of Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), whose life in fact happens to be a story. He's the main character of Karen Eiffel's new book. The wonderful opening sequence is narrated by Karen (Emma Thompson), as we see a typical day in the life of Harold. The extraordinary thing about Harold is how ordinary he appears to be in every conceivable way. Each day goes by the same way, like clock work. It only makes sense then that Karen gives Harold's watch more personality than Harold himself. One morning as Harold brushes his teeth he starts to hear Karen's voice in his head. Every word that she prints on her typewriter is transmitted to his brain. Needless to say, Harold has some trouble with this. To make matters worse, no one else can hear the voice, not even his one and only friend Dave (Tony Hale, Buster from "Arrested Development"). Meanwhile, his job as an auditor for the IRS brings him to a baker named Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Ana's initial disdain for Harold, coupled with his attraction to her, makes his life even more difficult. And just when things can't seem to get any worse, he hears Karen say the words, "Little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would lead to his imminent death." All he'd done was reset his watch.
A now desperate Harold enlists the help of literary professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), who tries to help him determine if Harold is in a comedy or a tragedy. Hilbert also encourages Harold to get closer to Ana to try to push the comedy angle in a bid to re-write Karen's ending.
Even if you don't care for Will Ferrell, do not let that deter you from seeing this film. He's completely toned down here. What makes his performance so terrific is how understated it is. He never forces anything in this film and he's spot on every step of the way. We sympathize with him and root for him as we watch him try to re-write his life story. Like Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show" and Adam Sandler in "Punch-Drunk Love," he really shows what he can do playing a realistic character. The rest of the cast is perfect as well. Emma Thompson is probably my favorite actress working today, and neurotic suicidal depression wouldn't be funny in anyone else's hands. Just like in "I Heart Huckabees," Hoffman is having an absolute blast, and his attitude is infectious. You can't help but enjoy yourself as much as he is.
Helm's screenplay is full of surprises and wonderfully imaginative touches. He and director Forster have created a film that is both artistically gratifying and completely accessible to a mass audience. A rare feat and something to be applauded. I laughed often during "Stranger Than Fiction," and when I wasn't laughing I was smiling from ear to ear. This is a truly great movie going experience. A unique look at life and death, comedy and tragedy. Put "Stranger Than Fiction" at the top of your Must See List. 10/10

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