Stranger Than Fiction: A Review

Sam Jacobsen, Junior Editor

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The movie Stranger than Fiction is an enjoyable endeavor starring Will Ferrell as the tragic yet comical Harold Crick.  The film, directed by Marc Forster  (World War Z, Quantum of Solace) and written by Zach Helm (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium), follows Crick’s journey through modern Chicago as his life hurtles to an impending doom.  The movie starts out simple enough–with Crick working as an IRS agent, living alone, and being largely a let down in all other respects.  But this takes a dramatic shift when Crick starts hearing a voice–the narrator’s voice.  The following events all mix into an overall heartwarming, comical story as Crick tries desperately to find the author of his life (played by Emma Thompson), involving a love affair with a Ms. Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal).  

Crick starts the story as a rather pitiful man that goes through the same boring procedure everyday: brushes his teeth in the same way, walks through the Chicago streets to the bus the same way, goes to work the same way, works in the same way, and goes to sleep at eleven o’clock after eating a diner for one the same way.  But as the movie progresses we see our awkward main character come out of his shell and learn what it means to be happy.

Part comedy, part drama, Stranger than Fiction has both the potential to provoke thought and to cause brief chuckles.  Its story is upbeat, original, and works well.  And its superb soundtrack, composed by Brian Reitzell, adds a quirky contrast to some of its dark qualities much like in such films as Braindead (1992)  and Dawn of the Dead (1978) good references.  Acting wise the film is filled with big names and great jobs, and the cinematography throughout the movie is generally very appeasing.  But otherwise the movie falls oddly short of expectations.

It is almost as if the comedy and the drama of the film a mixed together so incompletely that they both seem to be lacking.  There aren’t any of the hardy laughs one would hope from actors such as Ferrell, and the drama always seems to fall short of tear-jerking level.  If anything the film comes across as more of an offbeat rom-com than anything else.

Zach Helm’s story, though interesting and enjoyable through a large majority of the movie, is riddled with odd holes and leaves countless questions about who exactly Harold Crick is wide open.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise since Helm is also responsible for such lax screenplays as Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which as fantastical and whimsy as it may have been also failed to deliver.  The story probably would have been better if it had less of Emma Thompson’s character oddly fantasising about dying and brought more exposition in involving what was actually happening.

All suspension of disbelief that is needed in such a film seemed to be very thin throughout the story, making it hard to come to terms with what was happening.

And in the end the movie leaves a joyous (but odd) taste in the mouth.  All in all the film is more enjoyable to watch for its dialog and acting than its actual story.  When the film comes to a close, there is a largely unsatisfied feeling.  Perhaps, much like Thompson’s book, the movie would have ended better with a death.    

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