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Worth A Look28.4%
Average: 14.81%
Pretty Bad: 24.69%
Total Crap: 3.7%

7 reviews, 39 user ratings

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Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
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by U.J. Lessing

"A fun film that's not by the book"
4 stars

A concept film, but wow, what a concept! “Stranger than Fiction” takes a gimmick and makes it touching. How easy it would have been to take the notion of a character from a book that has the ability to hear the story’s narrator and turn it into a comedic farce. In fact, advertisements for the film emphasize just that: the zaniness of the story. Thankfully, the filmmakers forgo the temptation to inject the film with an overabundance of sight gags and opt instead for a tender story.

Will Farrell plays Harold Crick. Crick is a loner who’s obsessed with numbers and routines. Every aspect of his life is carefully broken down and controlled. He counts the number of brushes each of his teeth receives. He can multiply large numbers in his head (an asset when working for the IRS.) Consequently, the level of control his life demands allows no room for other people.

If the character of Harold seems contrived, it’s because he’s been literally contrived by an author who doesn’t know he really exists. Harold quickly learns that he’s the figment of someone else’s imagination when he begins to hear the author’s narration as he goes about his daily activities.

We delight in Harold’s determination as he seeks professional advice from a professor of literature (Dustin Hoffman relishing his supporting role), methodically attempts to determine if his life is comedy or a tragedy, and finds true love in the form of a kind-hearted, liberal baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal mostly playing herself).

Farrell’s talents haven’t been utilized this effectively since “Elf.” Writer Zach Helm and director Marc Forster recognize that Farrell may play humor well, but he’s better when he plays it innocent. Instead of creating a Farrell vehicle that requires the actor to rant, rave, and go wild, Forster’s screenplay focuses on a character that doesn’t realize the potential of his life until his fate is in the hands of another person.

The other person, author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), has spent the last decade writing Harold’s fate. Like Harold, her life is empty, and she has no friends. Her apartment lies stark and bare. Unlike Harold, thoughts of death occupy her mind. Her book is nearly finished except for one small detail: she plans to kill Harold off and she’s not sure how to do it.

Emma Thompson gives the film much needed weight. She effectively conveys the fact that Eiffel’s well being is in just as much peril as her creation’s. After watching her perform in a myriad of flat roles, it’s refreshing to see Thompson really delve into a character. Her scenes with Queen Latifah (smartly playing an assistant who’s been forced upon Eiffel by the publisher) are particularly vibrant.

“Stranger Than Fiction” never takes any major risks, and consequently isn’t as important as other fantasy-bending films like “The Science of Sleep” and “Being John Malkovich,” but “Stranger Than Fiction” is both refreshing and smart: a great combination.

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originally posted: 01/14/07 09:56:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/17/09 Aesop Every member of the cast was fantastic, and this movie rocked. 5 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. will ferrell's best film! :] 4 stars
9/13/08 David 5 stars for this movie! 5 stars
8/24/08 AnnieG Less original than I'd been led to believe, but still enjoyable to watch. 4 stars
7/08/08 mitch sims you spelled 'golem' wrong. 5 stars
11/19/07 The Russian Lunch Lady I can't believe nobody thought of a film like this before. Awesome movie. 5 stars
10/21/07 Bopo Outstanding. Very different and wonderfully executed. 5 stars
9/09/07 ES Fantastic movie 5 stars
8/15/07 Ashley I liked it!! It was nice to see this side of Farrell. I like him this way!! 4 stars
5/31/07 Marty acting good but ferrel soso, ungrounded at beginning, ending overhyped in the movie itself 3 stars
5/27/07 TreeTiger About as entertaining as watching a tax audit... 1 stars
5/24/07 Tracey Chambers I liked it. It was different, and very entertaining. 4 stars
5/01/07 Indrid Cold A mostly unsuccessful attempt to make a Charlie Kaufman movie without Charlie Kaufman. 3 stars
4/29/07 izzy jesus if the devise is that crick is a real person, then how is considering killing him not evil. 1 stars
4/26/07 The Grinch What a piece of crap. It's no 'Being There', and Will Ferrell is no Peter Sellers. 2 stars
4/24/07 David Pollastrini very funny 4 stars
4/14/07 The Talking Elbow Best movie I've seen in a long time. Highly reccomended. 5 stars
3/20/07 M Craven It has Queen Latifah in it. What the fuck, man? 3 stars
3/18/07 AliCat Third Person Omniscient 5 stars
3/10/07 Phil M. Aficionado Script, cast, and acting skill rank well above the level of the storyline 3 stars
3/06/07 David Pollastrini good concept 3 stars
1/02/07 Dave Superb! Do we live our dreams or do they live us? 5 stars
12/27/06 Agent Sands One of the most intelligent and most well-made Hollywood films this year. 5 stars
12/22/06 marooshka I thought it was the best of the year...haters are just haters 5 stars
12/18/06 Ole Man Bourbon Cute. 4 stars
12/15/06 orpy I really liked it! Different and refreshing! 4 stars
11/21/06 Spartacusyentl Better than most movies today. This one involves too much thought for the average audience. 4 stars
11/20/06 A writer Why do we write? Or say or do anything at all? Watch this movie - enough said. 5 stars
11/19/06 Dadcat Answers the question"Which is more important: art, or ordinary life?" in Hegelian fashion. 5 stars
11/19/06 FrayLo I enjoyed it. Took a while to really get going, though. 4 stars
11/19/06 Elizabeth Promising concept but found myself surprisingly bored. 2 stars
11/17/06 Sir Spam-a-lot decent movie all around 4 stars
11/16/06 ajay very good. 5 stars
11/13/06 Nanonano Totally wonderful. still thinking about the odd moments. Good dialog against .....silence. 5 stars
11/13/06 Tiffany Losco Will ferrel is great!! 4 stars
11/12/06 LOLOL It has WIll Ferrel in it. Enough Said. 5 stars
11/11/06 Mary Brilliant, deep and thought provoking! 5 stars
11/11/06 chris. eh, could have used a better screenplay. 3 stars
11/10/06 Centipedes It has Will Ferrell in it. Enough Said. 1 stars
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  10-Nov-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Feb-2007



Directed by
  Marc Forster

Written by
  Zach Helm

  Emma Thompson
  Will Ferrell
  Maggie Gyllenhaal
  Queen Latifah
  Dustin Hoffman
  Tony Hale

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