Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction review

okay here's a thing for this thing

Stranger Than Fiction is a movie about a man named Harold Crick and his wristwatch. The wristwatch is by far the more interesting of the two, a fact which has begun to annoy it horribly. Harold Crick is an IRS agent who counts everything in his life, from the number of times he has brushed each tooth in his mouth to the number of seconds he has spent putting on his tie. We are informed of all of this by the crisp, British accent of narrator Emma Thompson. Much to his surprise, so is Harold Crick. He responds to this omnipresent voice describing his actions and inner thoughts as they happen with confusion followed by growing alarm.

Marc Forster brings many of the same visual tricks to this movie as his similarly existential (though much less popular) 2005 movie, Stay. CG effects display graphically Harold Crick's number based world, counting off along with him the number of steps between his house and the bus stop or the precise percentage to which the bathroom soap dispensers are filled. The settings are full of subtle (and unsubtle) geometric details that make every single inch of screen space into something fascinating.

Will Ferrell turns in an unexpectedly good performance as the understated Harold Crick, playing the character for laughs while avoiding his usual overacting. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays his foil, a woman who runs a bakery that Crick has been assigned to audit. Although she is understandably unfriendly towards Harold, she brings a sense of warmth and heart to her character and even makes you believe that she could eventually fall in love with this man. Dustin Hoffman plays a barefoot literary professor who is intrigued by Harold Crick's narrator and takes on the task of analyzing the voice in his head. Emma Thompson is amazing as Kay Eiffel, a reclusive writer who spends her time visualizing her own death for inspiration as she struggles with writer's block.

This movie has many big laughs, but does more than simply exploit it's high-concept premise for jokes. It is a movie that isn't afraid of thinking about the subjects that it brings up, and raises questions about the nature of life and providence, as when Hoffman's character talks to Crick about the difference between "plot" and coincidence. The ending is a cheap trick, but the characters know that, admit it, and choose to go along with it.


Blogger gwen said...

Thanks, boogar (it is -ar, i don't care what you say) - i still have to wait for the dvd to come out because I have no money, but i'm sure it won't be as awesome as your thing for this thingy.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Madeleine said...

Hmm. Maybe we should see that. That or Happy Feet, which I really want to see :P.

12:45 AM  

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