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Movie Review: Stranger Than Fiction

Though he's most often cast in slapstick roles, Will Ferrell is even better at playing the befuddled straight man. In fact, he gives one of his best performances yet in Stranger Than Fiction as Harold Crick, a mild-mannered and math-obsessed IRS agent whose favorite word is "integer."

On paper, this movie comes off like a promising post-modern mindbender, a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Crick is brushing his teeth one morning when he begins hearing the voice of a female narrator, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who is writing a book in which she plans to kill off his character. But unlike Eternal Sunshine and other Michael Gondry movies, this one doesn't have an intricately woven script worthy of the premise. In fact, the problem with Stranger Than Fiction is that it isn't strange enough. You'll understand what I mean if you

Though Stranger Than Fiction presents an intriguing question—namely, is the narrator controlling Crick's life, or can he change the outcome of her novel?—this question is essentially ignored. And in the end, when you unpeel the flimsy layers of the plot, you'll find that the story doesn't really make much sense.

Yes, it's entertaining to see Ferrell's emotive face react as Thompson narrates his life, as he says, "accurately and in a better vocabulary." But during the long (and less interesting) stretches of plot that lack narration, Ferrell seems free to do his own thing, and his attempts to thwart his impending death don't show up on Thompson's page. For guidance, Crick visits an English professor, well played by Dustin Hoffman, who advises him to figure out whether the story in which he is a character is a comedy or tragedy. Judging from the odd tone of the movie, the actors—including a morose Thompson and Maggie Gyllenhaal doing her usual gape-mouthed spunky thing—can't seem to decide if the movie is supposed to be funny either.

Join The Conversation
Candybee Candybee 10 years
I LOVED this film & LOVED Eternal Sunshine...which left me with a similiar feeling. I thought Will Ferrell was so peaceful, endearing, and innocent in this film. Another great performance from Dustin Hoffman. Great quote from the film: Harold Crick: Flag burning you have to get to? Ana Pascal: Acually it's my evil needle point conspiracy theory class. You should come. Harold Crick: I can't. I left my thimbles and socialist reading materials at home.
swwonder swwonder 10 years
I'm really excited about seeing this film, so I didn't read this entirely as not to spoil it. I didn't like 'Eternal Sunshine' I wonder if that means I'll like this.
hazel_eyes_smile hazel_eyes_smile 10 years
He was really brilliant in this movie. Very subtle, very layered performance. I love how he reacted to other people, rather than acting to the event.
Fancy04 Fancy04 10 years
The movie was awesome.
Laur0406 Laur0406 10 years
I, too, thought Will gave an amazing performande in this film. I was looking forward to a comedy, rather than a drama with comedic parts, but I ended up loving it. I want to see Will in more movies like this, rather than the slapstick comedy (although I love ihm in those too!). I miss him on SNL.
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