Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

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Review #305 of 365
Film: Stranger Than Fiction (2006) [PG-13] 113 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.25
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 12 November 2006
Time: 8:05 p.m.
Film's Official Website
DVD Release Date: unscheduled
Review Dedicated to: Wendy C. and Jill S. of Denver, CO

Directed by: Marc Forster (Finding Neverland)
Written by: Zach Helm (Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Will Ferrell (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) • Maggie Gyllenhaal (World Trade Center) • Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee) • Queen Latifah (Last Holiday) • Linda Hunt (Yours, Mine and Ours) • Dustin Hoffman (The Lost City)

Soundtrack: order the CD below

So, I sat down to write my review and get it done and published. I really wanted to get it done just after publishing the bonus review for Pan's Labyrinth. My rule for myself at is to see a movie every day at the theatre and review it the next. Which I have done successfully for 305 days. That is, until today, well actually, now, it's yesterday. Narrator: Little did Scooter Thompson know that events of the previous day had already been set in motion by the simple, yet meaningful act of mis-entering his part-time work schedule into his PDA. Just after sitting down to get some emails answered, and then taking on the writing of the review for the Will Ferrell / Emma Thompson (no relation unfortunately) dramedy, Stranger Than Fiction, written by Zach Helm and directed by Marc Forster, my Sidekick III cell phone rang signaling a call from a close relative of mine. Narrator: Ah yes, the omni-present cell phone Sidekick III. The all-in-one, PDA / phone / mp3 player / game center. Aptly named, for it certainly had become indispensable in Scooter's life storing all of his addresses, appointments, and the like. He had, in fact, worked diligently to keep it up-to-date and accurate which he only managed by carving out precisely 14.3 minutes per day exclusively for the purpose of updating it and synchronizing it with the various paper and email notices he received each day. So, I answered it, and it was my sister with questions regarding her HP Printer and it's lack of functioning. I tried my best to attend to her needs without being patronizing or saying for the umpteenth time that she was welcome to come use my new printer any time, but I'm not sure if I succeeded because, truthfully, as much as I adore my sister and believe her to be one of the most exceptionally wonderful persons in the world, my attention was torn between getting to the writing of my review and her needs. Upon concluding my conversation with her, hoping of course that she gained solace and comfort from my words, I set down again to put my fingers to the keyboard to see what ideas might surface. Narrator: Actually, were the truth to be told, Scooter was a bit hard on himself. He did give his sister adequate and undivided attention which turned out to be a bit of a problem. For, you see, in all of his meticulous brilliance, he had slipped a day upon entering his part-time work schedule into his Sidekick. While the time revealed it to be 3:20 p.m. it did not signal to him that he was supposed to be at work at 2:00 p.m.. Fortunately, the call from his sister, caused him to scroll by his email at which point he checked the work schedule and found that he was a day off—meaning a day off in this calendar not that he had the day off.Who wrote that? I really wasn't so sure I wanted the whole world to know about that. It's sort of embarrassing! Ok, so Stranger Than Fiction then. Stranger Than Fiction is the story of Harold Crick. Well, that's putting it a bit mildly. It's the story of an author named Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who is a famous English novelist living in America. Her signature motiff is that all of her protagonists die at the end of her books, and her current book, in progress in excess of a decade called Death and Taxes features a character named Harold Crick. So, as the film goes, we see Harold Crick (Will Ferrel) living his life with Kay Eiffel's voice over narration. Suddenly, one day, when Harold was counting the brush strokes while brushing his teeth, he was able to hear Kay's narrations. Which, I'm sure you can imagine, is quite startling to him. Kay, of course, does not know he can hear her, because, of course, she does not even know he is a real person. Narrator: Now, Scooter would have continued to write his review at that point, except that the panic attack was too strong. So, he shut down the computer and zipped off to his part-time job. As he was dashing, it occurred to him that he'd forgotten a number of things, such as, the uniform. Ok, come on, now who wrote that, just what I want my readers to think is that (a) I'm forgetful of important things (will they still accept me as a legitimate film critic if I cannot remember things?) and (b) I have a part-time job (will they think I'm unable to make ends meet as a film critic once they know about the part time job?). Narrator: Scooter has been worried for quite a while about what his fans would think if they learned that he had to acquire a part-time job in order to make ends meet despite the growing popularity of his movie review web site, strictly speaking not enough merchandise was being sold based on clicks on the site to make it financially offsetting.Oh my gosh, now come on! I really don't think that the readers need to be burdened with my monetary details. Please, voice, please stop interrupting my review. I need to get on with this and get to sleep, it's 1:00 a.m. Mountain Time, and I need my beauty rest. So, at first, Harold isn't sure what to think. He does not think he's going crazy. The voice is right too often in predicting events of his life to come. For example, it indicates that he'll meet a person when conducting an audit of her corner coffee shop and bakery that he'll fall in love with, and sure enough enter Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who immediately catches his fancy. He takes time off from his job as an IRS Agent to get to the bottom of the voice. Eventually, his psych advisor, Dr. Mittag-Leffler (Linda Hunt) recommends he see literature Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) to get to the bottom of it. Narrator: So Scooter dashed off to work with an ending time of 8:00 p.m. and then the need to see Babel which he would review tomorrow or rather today as it is now tomorrow—as that is the idea of And, as things would go much better for him today, now that his Sidekick III has be updated to reflect his proper, part-time schedule, he would not need to worry so much about getting his review completed on time. Moreover, he would be in possession of an entire tube of chocolate chip cookie dough—his preferred comfort food—as he would pick one up on the way home from the movie. That's it you stupid voice. I'm tired of you interrupting me. I'm trying to get this review done. I do like the sound of that cookie dough, though. After initially dismissing Harold's story of hearing the voice of the narrator, Professor Hilbert, decides to help poor Harold find out if he's in a comedy or a tragedy and if the voice's prediction of his impending demise would be fulfilled.

So, if you are a fan of the interior monologue or recursive, self-referential films, or out-there, way cool plots that require some serious amount of thinking behind the scenes, you are probably going to like this film. The principle characters and their corresponding actors, though I've left out Queen Latifah, I realized,…Scooter would realize in the nick of time that he had left out Queen Latifah whom he knew did the best she could with the tiny and nearly insignificant role she was given as Kay Eiffel's assistant.…who plays Kay Eiffel's assistant hired by the publisher to help her finish her long-anticipated novel, are all outstanding. I thought, really, that Will Ferrell was on the "former SNL actor-turned movie star every other film is bad" rule, but I was wrong. He was amazing in Talladega Nights, and he's close to brilliant in this film. Honestly, I can think of no way he could have improved his performance. Emma Thompson looks perpetually tired and puffy-eyed and out of sorts as she traipses around Chicago seeking brilliant ways to kill off Harold. The look works as she is a sort of strung-out on nicotine junkie with dry wit and a brilliant mind to fill the bill. Dustin Hoffman is in rare form in a good way, and Maggie Gyllenhaal surfaces again in her 8th movie of the year this time playing a baker. Scooter winked and wondered if he should mention in his review that Maggie Gyllenhall played a similarly gifted yet overlooked baker in the very recent New York montage film called the Great New Wonderful. He decided he should. Which of course she did once this year already, as Emme Keeler in the Great New Wonderful. This character is as multi-faceted as, perhaps, she's ever played. Overall, the film is also pretty wonderful with the possible exceptions that perhaps it is a bit slow at times; fantasy is one thing, but how does Harold Crick hear the voice?, and an ending that proves the ending one might have in store for artistic elegance might have to be abandoned when your main character really turns out to be a good guy. Scooter pondered for a while trying to decide if he should say any more; and, finally, he thought to himself, "No, that does it up just right." Which it did.

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Other Projects Featuring Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Cast Members
Will FerrellMaggie GyllenhaalEmma Thompson
Queen LatifahLinda HuntDustin Hoffman
Marc Forster
Zach Helm
CD Soundtrack

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