Will Ferrell has made a movie where you can’t think too much about the plot. Again. However, this movie has charm and good development that helps holds this sweet story together. You just can’t ask why any of it has happened.
Will Ferrell stars in Stranger Than Fiction, which is about a boring taxman, Harold Crick, who one day finds himself hearing a voice narrate his actions. At first the voice frightens him, but as he discovers that it is not only offering detail to his life but that the details are accurate—boringly accurate—he begins to understand that he needs to change his life. But when the voice states that he is going to die, he tries to figure out where it’s coming from. A therapist who recommends strong medication for what she thinks is paranoid schizophrenia, suggest that he look into the literary aspects of his life by consulting a professor. Professor Jules Hilbert, played by Dustin Hoffman in a spot on performance, helps Harold rule out what stories he’s not in, and looks for the metaphor behind his actions. The two work together in dispelling many obvious plots that aren’t Harold’s life. In an attempt to figure out if he in a tragedy or comedy, Harold sits perfectly still and waits for the plot to find him. Turns out, each tragedy has some comedy in it and vice versa.
Harold Crick doesn’t want to die. He knows that the quality of his life so far hasn’t been high, but he’s trying to change. He begins dating Ana, a baker he is auditing, who helps him loosen up. But it’s not enough. Once Professor Hilbert realizes that Harold isn’t in control of his life, he urges him to forget the narrator and to just life his life to the fullest because everyone will eventually die.
But, who is the narrator? Emma Thompson plays the voice in Harold’s head, the writer Kay Eiffel. Kay is working on her first book in ten years, and has encountered writer’s block. With the help of her assistant Penny Escher, a miscast Queen Latifah, Kay searches for the right way to kill her character Harold Crick. Why? Because all her heroes die; it’s how she sees life. The ensuing fight for balance in lives is satisfying. Kay’s hard character doesn’t soften as much as it allows for Harold’s to strengthen. Each character’s action in the movie is written with meaning and precision, just as they hold themselves throughout.
What makes this movie different from other recent existential movies such as Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is that this movie doesn’t dwell on the why this has happened to Harold Crick, and instead allows the audience to enjoy the story as it unfolds. While plot driven stories often lack substance, here the growth of Harold’s character and the apparent clumsiness of life speaks for itself. No further questioning is needed, only recognition of the experience.
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