Monday, July 09, 2007

Movie Review: Stranger than Fiction (DVD)

Stranger Than FictionStranger than Fiction is a brilliant comedy/drama/romance about the inevitability of death and how we try to understand it in relation to the rest of our life’s seeming triviality. Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS auditor whose life is repetitive, mundane, and dominated by numbers. Every day is exactly the same as the previous one and is managed by the watch on his wrist. One day, getting ready for work, Harold suddenly begins hearing a woman’s voice narrating everything he is doing. This, of course, is highly disturbing and he becomes obsessed with trying to come to grips with what is happening to him. He solicits the help of Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), an English Professor of Literature, and is eventually able to discover that the voice in his head belongs to a novelist author, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who is writing his story. Big problem: Karen Eiffel always kills off her main character in the stories she writes. Harold needs to find a way to avoid his death and, as he does so, falls in love with one of his auditees and learns some things about himself and life that have a profound impact on his existence. Will Farrell is excellent as Harold Crick and this is probably his best role so far. Emma Thompson, who apparently wore no makeup for this role, is superb as the distraught, depressed novelist with writer’s block, and they are both supported by good performances from Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal (as the love interest). Stranger than Fiction is a deeply thoughtful movie and, despite it being a comedy, manages to explore existential themes related to death that are of significance to all of us as human beings who inevitably must die. What do our deaths mean? Are they part of some predetermined tapestry? Where does choice fit in? What gives life its significance? What do the mundane aspects of our lives contribute to the overall meaning of existence? These and many other questions are alluded to in an unexpectedly entertaining and engaging narrative. At times, the story drags a touch, but the narrative pulls us in and keeps us intrigued until the final moments of the surprising resolution. Don’t miss this one. My Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review ’In a feat of performing imagination, Ferrell turns his usual extroversion inside out and his usual zaniness into precision, and makes it all work for him.’ - Michael Sragow/ Baltimore Sun Negative Review ’Watching the movie made me long for the big , risky ideas and entertainingly fearless filmmaking in David O. Russell’s "I Heart Huckabees " and Spike Jonze’s "Adaptation ," which Kaufman wrote. Both were similarly conceptual escapades, but they let it all hang out.’ - Wesley Morris/Boston Globe Content Advice Some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity AUS: M USA: PG-13

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