On the day that a serial killer that he helped put away is supposed to be executed, a noted forensic psychologist and college professor receives a call informing him that he has 88 minutes left to live.
A grief-stricken mother takes on the LAPD to her own detriment when it stubbornly tries to pass off an obvious impostor as her missing child, while also refusing to give up hope that she will find him one day.
On his birthday, Walter Sparrow, an amiable dog-catcher, takes a call that leaves him dog bit and late to pick up his wife. She's browsed in a bookstore, finding a blood-red-covered novel, a murder mystery with numerology that loops constantly around the number 23. The story captivates Walter: he dreams it, he notices aspects of his life that can be rendered by "23," he searches for the author, he stays in the hotel (in room 23) where events in the novel took place, and he begins to believe it was no novel. His wife and son try to help him, sometimes in sympathy, sometimes to protect him. Slowly, with danger to himself and to his family, he closes in on the truth. Written by
I watched this by accident. I was looking for another movie, a comedy about a man who thinks he's a character in a novel (which turns out to be STRANGER THAN FICTION). Comedy, Jim Carrey, I thought this had to be it. I was wrong, and boy, am I glad I goofed.
Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, a fairly ordinary-seeming man, an animal control officer whose wife Aggie (played by Virginia Madsen) happens to buy him what seems to be the only copy of a self-published novel, THE NUMBER 23. But as Walter reads the book, the story of a homicide detective named Fingerling, he finds the character reminding him of himself. As he reads of the character Fingerling's descent into obsession and madness, he becomes increasingly disturbed himself, and goes hunting for the pseudononymous author, determined to find out what it all means. The answer uncovers a dark secret involving a murder committed over a decade ago, and alters the lives of Walter and his family permanently.
I won't say more, it would give away too much, but I found this wonderfully acted, beautifully written, and altogether involving. Carrey excellently plays both Walter Sparrow and Dec. Fingerling (in scenes from the novel shown as Carrey reads it), Madsen shines as loving housewife Aggie and novel character Fabrizia, and the supporting players turn in excellent performances, particularly Lynn Collins as the novel character Suicide Blond. The photography is frequently dark and threatening, which fits the plot, the sets are marvelous, and the climax is perfect.
I hope Carrey does more serious roles. This movie proves he's not just a funny rubber face.
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