Friday, 15 May 2009

Stranger than fiction - the film

As Ian mentioned, his highly original poem evoked memories for me of a recent film. This is my review, published in The Levante Journal #1 (June 2008).

A most unusual film that works on several levels, ‘Stranger than Fiction’ could be regarded as Will Ferrell’s breakout part, because its resonances are similar in scope and effect to Jim Carey’s bravura performance in ‘The Truman Show.’

Harold Crick (Ferrell) is a mild-mannered tax inspector whose life is totally boring. His every move seems to be timed to obsessive precision, whether that’s walking along a street or handling mundane paperwork. He’s going through life but is abysmally unaware of living. That is until he starts hearing a female voice narrating his every move – his breakfast choice, the exact number of toothbrush strokes etc. A voice in his head is not good, particularly when a few clues about his future are dropped into parenthesis. Weird becomes scary. Soon he believes that he’s a character in a novel and the author is intent on killing him off. Perhaps he should have called in the men in white coats, but instead he consults Hilbert, a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), who suggests that Harold should strive to turn his life around, from a tragedy to a romantic comedy. Easier said than done, however.

Unaware of Harold’s real existence, the chain-smoking reclusive author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) hits writer’s block. She has a delivery deadline approaching so her publisher sends along an assistant (Queen Latifah) to help Karen find a way to kill off her protagonist, Harold.

Meanwhile, Harold is inspecting the books of anti-establishment baker Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Some indefinable connection is made between them and slowly, inevitably, Harold’s controlled life begins to crumble and he enters unknown territory. But it is not only Harold who is struggling to gain control. Karen, the author, is at odds with herself too.

Ferrell portrays his character with finesse and understanding, indeed with great dramatic depth. We share in his bewilderment, his anxiety and his coming of age as he journeys to what seems his predestined demise at the hands of an unknown author.

Thanks to the excellent cast and witty script, the premise works while we suspend disbelief. The story is about loneliness, self-awareness, responsibility and fatalism. In an understated, sometimes heartbreaking way, this tragicomedy says how important it is to seize the day. It’s a surprisingly moving and heart-warming film about creativity, relationships and the lack of them.


1 comment:

  1. Nik, Never heard of it before but sounds like a good read (or watch) Thanks for the review.