Stranger Than Fiction

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Stranger Than Fiction
Review (7.5/10)
(By Liam Cullin)

"Stranger Than Fiction" stars Will Ferrell as IRS auditor Harold Crick. One day, as Harold is standing there brushing his teeth, he hears a voice. The voice belongs to novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a writer who specializes in killing off her main characters. So, as freaked out as Harold is about the voice that is narrating his life, he becomes even more terrified when the narrator announces that, little does Harold know, events have been set in motion that will lead to his imminent death. So, after seeking the help of literary professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold goes about trying to discover who his narrator is and how he can go about preventing his death. The movie also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as Ana, a bakery store owner who Harold is auditing. And as Harold begins to question the meaning of his own life, he also begins to fall in love.

I enjoyed this movie. I'll start by admitting I'm not the biggest Will Ferrell fan, or at least I'm not the biggest fan of his particular brand of humor. (Although, come to think of it, I've seen pretty much every movie he's ever made, so make whatever you will of that.) That being said, this is the kind of role I enjoy seeing Ferrell play. Not too over-the-top, but still funny enough in an understated kinda way. I'll liken Ferrell's performance here (and the movie in general) to Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show". Both roles feature a funnyman known for his outlandish humor toning it down for a movie about a guy who's just going through the motions until he discovers that maybe there's something more to life.

Supporting roles play a big part in the success of this movie. Dustin Hoffman as the professor was perfectly cast. Although it kinda sucks that Hoffman seems relegated to these types of supporting roles nowadays, he takes what he's got here and turns it into something all his own. And Maggie Gyllenhaal? I hadn't seen a lot of her movies before now, but after seeing her here, I just fell in love. She's so damned cute and irresistible. I wish she would bake ME some cookies. And, although I'm generally not a fan of Emma Thompson (okay, I really dislike her), I didn't quite hate her here. The role seemed to suit her, and her voice was perfectly suited for that of the narrator. The only role I'd complain about here was that of Queen Latifah as the assistant brought in to help Emma Thompson complete her book. There wasn't anything really wrong with the performance, it's just that the character didn't seem necessary.

Re-watching the previews for this movie, it seems as though it is being marketed as being funnier than it actually is. That's just a warning to those going into this movie thinking they're getting another "Anchorman" or "Talladega Nights". Don't be misled. Yes, there are humorous parts to this movie, but there's really a lot more. There's the whole romantic element involving the Gyllenhaal character and the existential crisis story about a regular guy whose life is kinda dull before he begins to question his purpose.

Researching the movie, I've read quite a bit of buzz about an Oscar nod for Ferrell. Well, completing the comparison to "The Truman Show", people said the same thing about Carrey way back when...and it didn't happen. Although Ferrell was good in this movie, Oscar-worthy wasn't the first thing that popped into mind walking out of the theater. A Golden Globe? Maybe, but that's as far as I'd go. Then again, the Oscar nominations can sometimes be "Stranger Than Fiction"...

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