Saturday Movie Review – “Stranger Than Fiction”

I’ll never leave the house without my watch again.

Cast and Crew

Will Ferrell as Harold Crick
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Ana Pascal
Emma Thompson as Karen Eiffel
Queen Latifah as Penny Escher
Dustin Hoffman as Professor Jules Hilbert

Written by Zach Helm.
Directed by Marc Forster.

Complete information is available from this IMDB page.

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Harold Crick is an IRS agent with nothing in his life but his job. Little did he know that he was the main character in a novel by an author known for killing her characters in remarkably inventive ways. At least, he shouldn’t have known, but one day, he is suddenly able to hear the narration of the story itself.

High Point

A new twist on a classic date gift. There’s just nothing conventional about this movie.

Low Point

It would have been nice to have some reason that Harold could suddenly hear the narration. It’s not a big problem, and it would be hard to come up with anything that works, but something may have been better than nothing.

The Review

The originality is the driving force behind this movie. This is great fun, and doesn’t just have an original premise, but a completely original look and feel to the cinematography comes along with it. I missed it entirely in theaters last November, but I’m glad I bought a copy. I give it 6 out of 6.

The effects were excellent. The mathematical way Harold views the world is stylish and revealing, and there are numerous little touches that are easy to miss. (For example, keep a close eye on the clouds behind Harold when he’s with the company shrink.) The effects are always seamless, and subtle when appropriate. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story lacks the instigating event I mentioned in the low point, and has a similar jump near the end, but is otherwise solid. Those two moments are still enjoyable, though. (In fact, I didn’t even think of them until after I’d spent a full 20 minutes trying to come up with a low point.) I give it 5 out of 6.

Before I judge the acting, you should know I’m not a Will Ferrell fan. I tolerated him in The Producers, and found his character the most irritating and least funny moment in Jay and Silent Bob Silent Back. I have actively avoided his comedy vehicles, including Elf, Talladega Nights, and Anchorman. I decided to give this one a shot because of my respect for the work of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, because there aren’t a lot of comedies on Blu-ray now, and because I needed something to review this weekend, and there aren’t many Blu-Ray titles available we haven’t already reviewed. I was expecting a performance like those Jim Carrey delivered in The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which decent work was done, but in which I’d wish someone else was cast in the role. Man, was I wrong. Ferrell has some serious dramatic chops, and doesn’t feel obligated to revert to his traditional comedic stylings just because it’s what he’s known for. He’s working opposite some great thespians, and he more than holds his own. His last scene with Dustin Hoffman is fantastic stuff. I was very pleasantly surprised. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. The actual ending of the movie feels like an open question from the start. Harold’s mental counters and catalogues keep things fresh and different when they really should be dull, and just drive home how unusual this movie is. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production, as you might have guessed by now, really involves the audience in Harold’s mind and world from the start, while still giving us a unique feel to the film. The little details, such as the furnishings of Harold’s apartment, are all exactly what they need to be. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great film. I don’t know how I missed this last year. If you did too, track it down now. It’ll be worth it. I recommend it without reservation. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Stranger Than Fiction receives 40 out of 42.

6 replies on “Saturday Movie Review – “Stranger Than Fiction””

  1. Stunning Performance
    I was also impressed by Ferrell’s performance in this, as it’s just so unlike anything else he has done. I have to agree with your high point, and I was also quite taken by the Whole Wide World and "This is Harold destroying his lamp!" scenes too.

    As to your low point, I had thought from my viewing that it was his watch that allowed him to start hearing the author, as it did that strange blink when he went to bed the night before. I could be wrong, but it makes sense in context with the ending.

    Also, shouldn’t it be 40/42?

    • Re: Stunning Performance

      Also, shouldn’t it be 40/42?

      It absolutely should. I’ll go fix that.

  2. I also just watched it
    Great movie. I have to disagree with your lowpoint, I think it would be a complete mistake to try and explain his hearing the voice. It just is, and as strange as that is under the light of rational thought, it works wonderfully. Actually the watch was less rational than the voice, but it was nice in a quirky sort of way.

    For me the highpoint had to be the demolition of his apartment. Hilarious, disturbing, sad, liberating, exhilerating – all in one.

  3. Just saw it
    Damn the professor is a cold son of a gun. I also disagree with the low point. Not everything has to be spelled out, a little mystery is A Good Thing ™.

    My personal high point was when he, knowing full well he would die, saved the child anyway. Noble, brave, honorable, etc...

    • Re: Just saw it

      Damn the professor is a cold son of a gun. I also disagree with the low point. Not everything has to be spelled out, a little mystery is A Good Thing ™.

      This is true. I should have made it clear that the "Low Point" is more of a "Lowest Point." As you can probably tell by the score, I was very impressed. It took me over 20 minutes to think of what should go in that spot, and that little thing bugged me just enough that I decided not to leave it blank.

  4. Good review
    Good review. Overall, I thought Adaptation handled similar material more inventively. You might check that out if you liked this film.

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