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"Stranger than Fiction", Harder to Pass Up

by Hassassin (writer), Los Angeles, December 05, 2006


Have you ever browsed through a movie rental store (yes, I realize I’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 VHS—ok let’s say DVD—down. This phenomenon has not been lost on modern filmmakers, and the latest Will Ferrell film “Stranger than Fiction” 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 inspiring—albeit not exactly hysterical—performance as Harold Crick, an IRS agent that has haplessly found himself at the mercy of a fictional writer’s whim…literally. For those of you familiar with Ferrell’s performances in films like “Melinda & Melinda” or “Winter Passing”, his capacity for subtlety in this film is not surprising; but for those of you expecting the guy from “Old School”, you might be looking in the wrong aisle.

Considering the fantastical premise, Zach Helm’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, which—considering Helm was born in 1975—is probably a fair assumption. Luckily, he also seems to have a good sense of humor. If you’re a fan of Michel Gondry or Charlie Kaufman, you will find some striking similarities—with a spoonful of sugar.

Surrounding Ferrell is an eclectic and accomplished cast, whose mere presence adds a stamp of approval to the film’s credibility. In other words, if these people agreed to do the movie, you’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 Thompson’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 “I Heart Huckabees”. Maggie Gyllenhaal rounds out the cast as Ferrell’s love interest, with Queen Latifah giving a surprisingly believable performance as the writer’s assistant.

“Stranger than Fiction” delivers a full range of emotions during its approximate two hour running time, and Director Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”, “Monster’s Ball”) 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 category—and shelf—for this one.

About the Writer

Hassassin is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on "Stranger than Fiction", Harder to Pass Up

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By V on December 06, 2006 at 03:02 am
I have wondered about the categorizing. It seems the guys that organized the shelves at Cine File(Sawtell & Santa Monica) - and this is, uhm ... a bit unusual - think like me.
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