Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"Stranger Than Fiction" Film Review

"This may sound like gibberish to you, but I think I'm in a tragedy."
-Harold Crick

Last night, we saw Stranger Than Fiction at the dollar theater. I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

The film focuses on Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who begins to hear his own life being narrator by some unfamiliar voice. Soon, the narration tells us, and Harold, of his "imminent death."

Come to find out, Harold is a character in a book-in-progress. The author of the book, and the owner of the voice, is popular writer Kay Eiffel. With the help of professor Jules Hilbert, Crick must find Eiffel before she writes the ending to her book, an ending that would certainly mean Crick's demise.

Faced with death, Crick breaks from routine to pursue guitar playing and a love interest, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. This odd match would usually be hard to swallow, but these two actors had me convinced.

Coming from Monster's Ball director Marc Forster, it is no surprise that this film has a preoccupation with death. I've never seen such a light-hearted film with such dark subject matter. Forster manages to find a very delicate balance, and it works marvelously.

Crick is played with shocking restraint by funny man Will Farrell. This performance is quite a surprise coming from such a rambunctious actor, and it is quite a revelation. This is such a different role for Farrell, and yet I can't imagine anybody else playing Crick with such subtle effectiveness. In other words, Farrell blew me away. He even outdoes respected veteran actress Emma Thompson.

Thompson's performance (and I would've expected this from Farrell) is rather overdone. She hams it up a bit to play the author with writer's block. She was not a disappointment, and I enjoyed her character, but she could have toned it down a bit. I would've preferred a bit more restraint. Still, I respect Thompson, and her character's obsessive search for an appropriate way to kill off a character is a joy, as is her later fear that she could be killing Crick or, even worse, she may have already killed off characters in her former, death-obsessed novels.

The always-wonderful Dustin Hoffman plays Professor Hilbert, and nobody plays quirkiness better. Hilbert a literature scholar, caffeine addict, and the faculty lifeguard, and he is a delight in every scene he's in.

Like Adaptation, Stranger Than Fiction has one of those hyper-clever, "I wish I'd thought of that"-type plots. But it doesn't just rely on cleverness--there is a very real sense of depth to this film, with it's existential themes and it's lessons in living as one sees fit. Also, having taken several creative writing classes, I found myself giggling at Eiffel's dilemmas. I was reminded of numerous lectures from my instructor last semester that involved a tendency for writers to kill off their characters. Those out there who happen to be writers (so anybody with a Blogger account) really should see this film. You'll be able to enjoy it even more with that extra level of depth from understanding Eiffel's plight.


At 8:50 PM, Blogger Danny Tagalog said...

Well, I'll check tnis out. Sounds like the sort of thing down my alley. You have a 'dollar' theatre - that's enviable!

At 1:46 AM, Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

I've always been a Will Farrell fan, although my wife loathes him. Nice review. I can wait for it to come out on DVD. Something about surround sound at home makes me enjoy the movie better than in the public. I don't like being in the dark with a bunch of folks I don't know.


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