Have you ever browsed through a movie rental store (yes, I realize Iâ€™m probably the only one left without a NetFlix membership) and wondered how they decide which genre to stock the movies in? I always thought there must be a handful of movies that were a nightmare to stock, whether it was because too much drama had bled into a comedy, or perhaps a little too much romance had softened an action flick. In most cases, I found that the harder it was to categorize the movie, the harder time I had putting the VHSâ€”ok letâ€™s say DVDâ€”down. This phenomenon has not been lost on modern filmmakers, and the latest Will Ferrell film â€œStranger than Fictionâ€ continues a recent trend in films that give you a lot more than their trailer would lead you to believe.
Following in the cinematic footsteps of funny men Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler, and Robin Williams, Will Ferrell delivers an inspiringâ€”albeit not exactly hystericalâ€”performance as Harold Crick, an IRS agent that has haplessly found himself at the mercy of a fictional writerâ€™s whimâ€¦literally. For those of you familiar with Ferrellâ€™s performances in films like â€œMelinda & Melindaâ€ or â€œWinter Passingâ€, his capacity for subtlety in this film is not surprising; but for those of you expecting the guy from â€œOld Schoolâ€, you might be looking in the wrong aisle.
Considering the fantastical premise, Zach Helmâ€™s script is tightly structured, and allows the viewer to focus on the character-driven plot rather than constantly reconsider the suspension of his/her own belief. The writing in the film reminds me of an art kid with a good movie sense and postmodern tendencies, whichâ€”considering Helm was born in 1975â€”is probably a fair assumption. Luckily, he also seems to have a good sense of humor. If youâ€™re a fan of Michel Gondry or Charlie Kaufman, you will find some striking similaritiesâ€”with a spoonful of sugar.
Surrounding Ferrell is an eclectic and accomplished cast, whose mere presence adds a stamp of approval to the filmâ€™s credibility. In other words, if these people agreed to do the movie, youâ€™ve got a pretty good chance of enjoying it. Academy Award Winner Emma Thompson plays the writer trying to complete her novel, which is inadvertently related to the actual life of Harold. To underscore Thompsonâ€™s film decisions, it is probably relevant that I mention she is the only person that has won an Academy Award for both writing and acting. Academy Award Winner Dustin Hoffman also gives a strong performance as a professor; one that--in many ways--recalls his performance in â€œI Heart Huckabeesâ€. Maggie Gyllenhaal rounds out the cast as Ferrellâ€™s love interest, with Queen Latifah giving a surprisingly believable performance as the writerâ€™s assistant.
â€œStranger than Fictionâ€ delivers a full range of emotions during its approximate two hour running time, and Director Marc Forster (â€œFinding Neverlandâ€, â€œMonsterâ€™s Ballâ€) keeps things simple with clean shots, and a natural flow. The film is enjoyable as a narrative, but is most remarkable in its introspective commentary on fictional mediums and grander themes. Its ability to comment on the interrelatedness of comedy and tragedy alone is worth taking a chance on this misleading film, and I challenge you to find an appropriate categoryâ€”and shelfâ€”for this one.
WORLD - CULTURE
Copyright © 2010 Hassassin
"Stranger than Fiction", Harder to Pass Up
Copyright © 2010 Hassassin
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