Movie Review: Stranger Than Fiction
By Anne Brodie Nov 5, 2006, 7:15 GMT
After ten years of painstaking work, novelist Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is nearing completion on her latest, and potentially finest, book. Her only remaining challenge is to figure out how to kill off her main character, Harold Crick. Little does she know that Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is inexplicably alive-and-well in the real world, and suddenly aware of her words. Fiction and reality collide when the bewildered and hilariously resistant ...more
An intellectually engaging gem, by first time screenwriter Zach Helm, which skillfully blends mathematical theory, emotion, life and death. It’s a profound fable about the things that make us human and our struggles in the face of insurmountable odds.
It’s also a tip of the hat to mathematics and theory which gives people soft landings - it seems to give structure and meaning to unknowable things.
Meanwhile, it is charming and moving, often funny, with award-worthy fine performances by Emma Thompson and Will Ferrell.
Sly references to math, as in the names of the main characters – theorists Escher, Eiffel, Pascal and DNA detective Crick – and mysterious figures that appear from time to time make beautiful sense. Much is hidden and revealed when it makes the most sense.
Will Ferrell is Harold Crick, an IRS agent who lives life in numerical increments, counting toothbrush strokes, steps to the bus, quantifying his world and wondering why life is passing him by.
One day while brushing his teeth, he hears a woman’s voice describing what he’s doing. It hounds him all day, on the way to the bus, at work. Of course, people think he’s nuts when he shouts at the sky to leave him alone. Fruitlessly.
Across town, famed and reclusive author Kay Eiffel (Thompson) has writer’s block. She’s coming out of retirement to create what she believes will be her finest book yet. But she can’t figure out how to kill off her leading man, Harold Crick. And kill him she must, she does that to all her characters, just as their lives are getting good.
Crick soon comes to realize she is plotting his death because she’s hinting at it while typing, and reading aloud, apparently right into Crick’s ear. He finds a Kay Eiffel specialist in Dr. Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) and begs for help determining how she will kill him and if he can possibly stop her.
Ferrell shows us an impressive range of emotion and ability in his first major dramatic lead.
He’s downright loveable as he begins to discover reasons to live just when his life is about to end. He is an appealing dramatic actor, who honors the material. It’s funny and amusing, but this is no comedy. It’s a serious meditation on the big ideas.
Emma Thompson goes for slightly deranged and unkempt as Kay, the blocked writer with oh, so many tics and quirks. Her reclusiveness seems to come from a total disconnect with the normal world. Creative artists are often nuts in the movies and that is the thing here. The character who borders on repulsive overshadows Thompson’s usual charm. But as always, she nails the part.
Props to Queen Latifah, as the publisher’s assistant who moves in to make sure the book is written or, ‘help her with the writer’s block’. She’s a writer’s boot camp warden, but no one does it more elegantly than Latifah. Not a big part for an Oscar winner.
The film is astonishingly good and exceptionally well made, a certainty at Academy Awards time. It is not to be taken lightly and as unappealing as it sounds, good for you.
Opens November 10 wide USA. MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity.