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Stranger than Fiction
Theatrical film poster Directed by Marc Forster Produced by Lindsay Doran Written by Zach Helm Starring Will Ferrell
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Dustin Hoffman
Emma Thompson
Queen Latifah
Tony Hale Music by Britt Daniel
Brian Reitzell Cinematography Roberto Schaefer Editing by Matt Chesse Distributed by Columbia Pictures Release date(s) November 10, 2006 Running time 113 min. Language English Budget $30 million Gross revenue $40,660,952

Stranger than Fiction is a 2006 American comedy drama film. The film is directed by Marc Forster, written by Zach Helm, and stars Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Emma Thompson. Columbia Pictures distributed the film.[1]

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[edit] Plot

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service, living his entire life based on the timing of his wristwatch. He is given the job to audit an intentionally tax-delinquent baker, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) to whom he is awkwardly attracted. On the same day, he begins hearing the voice of a woman that is omnisciently narrating the events in his life, but he is unable to communicate with the voice. On his way home, Harold's watch stops working and he resets it using the time given by a bystander; the voice narrates "little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death". Worried over this prediction, Harold turns to a psychiatrist who attributes the voice to schizophrenia. Harold listens to her conclusion without giving importance to it. When he asks what she would advise if it were not schizophrenia, the psychiatrist suggests Harold turn to a literary expert. Harold visits Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), a university professor, and relates his story. Jules first comes to the same conclusion as the psychiatrist, as Harold's dull life is not something commonly seen in novels. However, Jules then recognizes aspects of a literary work in Harold's story ("little did he know"), and encourages him to help identify the author, first by determining if the work is a comedy or a tragedy.

As Harold proceeds to audit Ana, the two begin to fall for each other, but when Harold refuses to accept cookies that Ana made for him on the grounds that they could be viewed as a bribe, Ana angrily tells him to leave, making Harold believe the story is a tragedy. Harold spends the next day at home to try to control his own destiny, but his apartment is partially demolished by a wrecking crew mistaking the building for an abandoned one. Harold reveals these facts to Jules, who believes that Harold cannot control the plot that has been set for him and should accept that he will die, telling Harold to enjoy whatever time he has left to the fullest. Harold takes this to heart; he takes an extended vacation from work, develops his friendship with his co-worker Dave (Tony Hale), fulfills his life dream of learning to play the guitar, and starts to see Ana on a regular basis, helping her to avoid tax issues by claiming charitable offerings. Harold believes he may have mistaken his story and now reassesses it as a comedy. When he returns to Jules with this revelation, Harold inadvertently identifies the voice in his head from a television interview as noted author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson). Jules, a long-time fan of Karen's works, reveals that in every book she has written the main character has died.

Harold is able to find Karen through tax records, and learns that she is presently struggling from writer's block in how to kill off the character of Harold Crick in her latest book, Death and Taxes, envisioning numerous ways involving a child on a bicycle and a city bus, while her publisher has sent an assistant, Penny (Queen Latifah), to make sure the book gets completed. When Karen learns that Harold is a real person and has experienced everything she's written, she becomes horrified to consider all of her previous books may have also resulted in the deaths of real people. She tells Harold she has finally written a draft of the ending and his death, but hasn't typed it up yet. Penny suggests Harold read the book and the drafted ending to get his opinion. Harold is unable to bring himself to read it and gives the manuscript to Jules to review. Jules reads it and tells Harold that the manuscript is a masterpiece, his written death integral to its genius. Though Harold is deeply distressed over his fate, Jules comforts him by stating the inevitability of death - this death at least, will hold a deeper meaning by completing the book. Harold reads the manuscript himself, and comes to the same conclusion and returns the manuscript to Karen, accepting his death. He spends one last night with Ana.

The next day, Harold prepares to return to work after his vacation despite Karen's voice narrating the fateful day as she types up her planned ending. Due to getting the time from the stranger earlier, Harold's watch is three minutes too fast, and he arrives at the bus stop early enough to save a child on a bicycle from being run over by a bus, though he himself is hit by the bus. Karen attempts to write Harold's death, but is unable to do so, and instead claims the watch was the character that died, and that fragments of the watch helped to block an artery in Harold's body after the collision, preventing him from bleeding to death. Harold wakes up to find himself in a hospital, alive though in traction and with several broken bones, with Ana by his side to help him recover. When Jules reads Karen's final manuscript, he notes that the story is weaker without Harold's death. Karen admits the flaw, although she points out that the story was meant to be about a man that unknowingly dies, and this was not the case. Therefore, she states that she would rather have the story end with Harold alive, after expecting death and accepting it for a greater good.

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More Stranger Than Fiction reviews
Quick Tip by . October 19, 2010
I wasn't eager to see this. Then I couldn't wait to persuade my husband to see it. A weird premise beautifully executed.
review by . November 08, 2008
Stranger Than Fiction
The premise is simple but interesting: guy starts hearing a disembodied voice narrating his life and realizes he's a character in someone else's story. That's pretty much it. But the movie manages to deliver its deeper message, one about living instead of just being, without the usual everybody-be-happy cheesiness which defines so many "feel good" movies.  Will Ferrell's turn as lonely IRS agent Harold Crick is a far cry from his usual onscreen persona but that may well be what makes this …
review by . March 05, 2009
I was pleasantly surprised at this very well-done film with a highly likeable Will Ferrell as Harold Crick who is a character in a novel by Emma Thompson (I forgot her character's name) that Emma has scheduled to die.  Somehow Crick's watch does something to make him real and he can hear Emma's narration of her novel as she types it.  Crick starts to realize that all Emma's observations about him are accurate, so when she says that a certain event will set things in motion that Crick will …
review by . April 05, 2009
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is a tax man. As a matter of fact, he's the kind of serious tax man that the Beatles sang about:   "Now my advice for those who die, (Taxman!)   Declare the pennies on your eyes, (Taxman!)   `Cos I'm the Taxman."   2. Crick begins hearing a female voice in his head narrating his life, and starts to take it really seriously when she starts talking about impending doom. …
review by . December 17, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Harold Crick Was an Ordinary Man Until...
Imagine that your whole life, your entire existence was the creation of another human being's mind. What would it feel like to know that your actions were not the result of individual thought but were born of an author's imagination? How would you react if you knew that all of your pains and problems were no more than the whims of an eccentric writer? What if your fate, your world, even your personality were just the invention of another person? And what if your life was about to end and you knew, …
review by . February 07, 2009
Best-selling author, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), is struggling with her newest novel. How will she kill the main character, Harold Crick? Little does she know, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is real and she is writing his life story. Harold has been hearing her voice in his head as she narrates every moment of his mundane life as an IRS agent. Harold seeks out help from a professor of literature (Dustin Hoffman), and together they try to figure out who the voice is and what it means for Harold's …
review by . December 18, 2007
What an intriguing concept - an ordinary if somewhat introverted man who, unbeknownst to himself, is actually a character in a novel-in-progress, and a novelist whose character, unbeknownst to her, is real. Not an easy story to write or film. Nevertheless, both have been done, and done well. The screenplay makes the whole thing comprehensible, and the stellar acting makes it believable. It was hard to accept that this restrained actor is Will Ferrell. He DOES have talent, and a bit of that goofy …
review by . October 01, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
I was pleasantly surprised at this very well-done film with a highly likeable Will Ferrell as Harold Crick who is a character in a novel by Emma Thompson (I forgot her character's name) that Emma has scheduled to die. Somehow Crick's watch does something to make him real and he can hear Emma's narration of her novel as she types it. Crick starts to realize that all Emma's observations about him are accurate, so when she says that a certain event will set things in motion that Crick will die, he …
review by . September 07, 2007
Truly enjoyable movie. Thompson creates yet another memorable character. She truly excells at portraying cynical characters. Gyllenhaal's character, although not as memorable, was well portrayed. Huffman was excellent as well. And Ferrell, well, it was good. His expressions' portraying a lost sad man living a completely uneventul life won me over. The movie, as opposed to its characters, refused to fall into cynicism. It is intersting to note that the most cynic of the characters goes outside of …
review by . August 22, 2007
I have a hobby as a writer. I've actually had some of my work published. I've done some pretty awful, horrible things to some of my characters. I've killed them, maimed them, subjected them to abuse parents, drugs, fear, danger and death. All in the name of good writing and conflict!    So you'll understand that the idea of ever meeting some of my characters, especially, say, in a dark alleyway, is something that fills me with some sense of trepidation.    This …
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