Brilliant Script, Superb Direction, Best Ensemble Cast Performance: Why no Oscars?
Mar 1, 2007
STRANGER THAN FICTION is one of the more wise, conceptually stunning, finely executed original films to come to the screen in a long time. How this little gem of a film went unnoticed by the Academy is anyone's guess, but viewers' alert: spend an evening viewing this film and new standards for excellence will be set for you.
Director Marc Forster ('Finding Neverland', 'Monster's Ball', 'Stay', 'Everything Put Together') is a director of vision, a man unafraid to tackle testy topics, and a genius at pacing a film with a keen collaborative eye with his cinematographer, his editor, his set designer, his casting director, and his actors. Taking the chance of working with first time writer Zach Helm (a gifted artist whose niche in the business is already secure with this first venture) and assembling a cast of some of our finest actors proves successful in every graphically odd twist and turn of this unusual, compelling and unclassifiable story.
Harold Crick (Will Ferrell - finally given a role in which he can prove that he is an actor and not just a foolish pratfall comedian) is a boring, number obsessed IRS agent whose every moment of every day is timed to be exactly the same (with the important co-existence with his wrist watch!)...until one day he hears a voice narrating his life, the female voice of loopy and blocked writer Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who is writing a story that has a 'Harold Crick' as her main character. Only our boring IRS agent can hear her voice: his loony office friend Dave (Tony Hale) empathizes but can do little else to help him. When the narrator begins to talk about ending 'Harold's' life, Harold freaks and seeks guidance from a literature professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman, in one of his most subtle and refined roles of his career) who knows Eiffel's work and aids Harold in understanding novels, be they comedy or tragedy. Harold also seeks the advice of psychiatrist Dr. Mittag-Leffler (the always superb Linda Hunt) who is of little help, and Dr. Cayly (Tom Hulce) who repairs all upsets with hugs.
Meanwhile in his work of auditing citizens he encounters anti-government baker Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal, once again proving that she is one of the most formidable talents in film today), and a bizarre but tender attraction slowly ensues. And all this time novelist Kay Eiffel is struggling with how to 'kill Harold' so that she can complete her novel. Her publisher sends in 'assistant' Penny Escher (Queen Latifah) to ground her and guide her to her novel's completion by helping her observe hospital disasters, vantages, and steadying her grip on life.
The manner in which the novel is finished which involves the ultimate fate of Harold and the changes the narration of the novel have had on his life makes up the resolution of the story. And a cleverly written conclusion it is. Zach Helm is obviously a brilliant, well-informed writer who knows how to balance comedy and tragedy, crises of life with the little things that count, and can mold conversations so subtle that they beg to be rewound to enjoy the words repeatedly. Forster wisely uses graphic superimpositions of numbers and graphs and lines to show us the inside of Harold's intriguing mind, all the while allowing us to draw close to the needy and tender aspect of this nerd of nerds, thus making the involvement with his narrator, his girlfriend Ana, and his doctors and professor wholly credible.
Some people (this viewer being one) avoided this film in the theaters because of the fear that it may be just another Will Ferrell bit of foolishness: over the top slapstick physical comedy that grows stale after about five minutes. But Will Ferrell here opens an important new door for his career: he can act! The ensemble cast could not be improved upon and it is refreshing to see the widely disparate types of actors gathered here work as a cohesive and impeccable unit. Added to the DVD is about an hour's worth of featurettes that are, for once, brilliantly informative and well worth viewing to enhance the film just experienced. Bravo to the entire cast and crew of this little masterwork! Grady Harp, March 07
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 … more
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 … more
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. … more
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, … more
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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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 ...