Everybody knows that your life is a story. But what if a story was your life? Harold Crick is your average IRS agent: monotonous, boring, and repetitive. But one day this all changes when Harold begins to hear an author inside his head narrating his life. The narrator it is extraordinarily accurate, and Harold recognizes the voice as an esteemed author he saw on TV. But when the narration reveals that he is going to die, Harold must find the author of the story, and ultimately his life, to convince her to change the ending of the story before it is too late.Written by
Maggie Gyllenhaal appeared in another film where the main character's name was Crick. Waterland (1992) has a main character using the surname of Crick (Tom Crick), played by Jeremy Irons, and that movie was Maggie's film debut. See more »
When Dr. Hilbert meets with Harold in his office after reading the book, a crew member is reflected in the window. See more »
What do these questions have to do with anything?
Professor Jules Hilbert:
Nothing. The only way to find out what story you're in is to determine what stories you're not in. Odd as it may seem, I've just ruled out half of Greek literature, seven fairy tales, ten Chinese fables, and determined conclusively that you are not King Hamlet, Scout Finch, Miss Marple, Frankenstein's monster, or a golem. Hmm? Aren't you relieved to know you're not a golem?
Yes, I am relieved to know that I am not a golem.
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During the end credits, the names of the characters and the actors who played them were displayed against stylized images of the places where the characters worked. See more »
As the cinematic writing debut of Zach Helm, "Stranger Than Fiction" may very well have the most creative storyline of the year. Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is a nondescript IRS agent who awakes one day to hear a woman narrating much of his life. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the voice belongs to a well-known author who routinely kills her main characters in her novels. No big deal, except for the fact that he soon learns of his fate. That of course horrifies him, and he spends the majority of the film coping with that inevitability.
Unfortunately the lofty possibilities raised by such a fantastically original idea are never fully explored. "Stranger" doesn't take the time to delve into the life-and-death complexities that could arise from a man searching for the why and who behind his future demise. Nor does it address most of the unique moral questions and obligations that would arise. Instead the script settles for clichés like a typically rushed cinematic romance, premises that aren't all that bad, but are more suited to be side stories, not main arcs. These shortcomings glaringly keep Stranger from reaching the Oscar-winning level of something like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" or other Charlie Kaufman work. In fact this movie might be best described as Diet Charlie Kaufman, a pop psychological movie, a thinking movie for those who don't really want to think.
As Adam Sandler did for "Punch-Drunk Love", Will Ferrell will no doubt receive heaps of praise for his portrayal of IRS agent Harold Crick. Make no mistake, Ferrell is fine, but don't let anyone convince you this is an Oscar-worthy turn. The simple fact that he plays it straight, without getting nearly naked or over-reacting doesn't automatically create a great performance. The reality is that while he has his moments, Ferrell is the straight man in this picture, a tepid character who contrasts well with Maggie Gyllenhaal's anarchist baker Anna, Dustin Hoffman's Yoda of literature professor, and Emma Thompson's work as author Kay Eiffel, which results in the best performance in the film. She lends the part a wackiness that seems genuinely fresh, in odd, unteachable ways like how she touches both sides of a door frame when passing. She acts crazy enough but not so crazy that you sense the acting as she neurotically haggles over how she can kill off her protagonist.
In the end, "Stranger Than Fiction" is like Anna's cookies. They both taste good at the time, as the movie does have its humorous and entertaining moments, but their long term value is limited due to their lack of nutrition. Nothing here is going to linger, but if you're interested, you won't be sorry you saw it.
Bottom Line: A missed opportunity, but still worth a rental or cheap theater ticket. 6 of 10.
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