PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity.
Nov. 10, 2006
Drama, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy
Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman
Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment
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Stranger Than Fiction
By Elliott Ryan
Harold Crick hears a voice in his head. Crick (an IRS auditor played by Will Farrell) hears a voice narrating his life. The voice is female and British and no one else can hear her but Harold. He thinks he is going crazy at first but begins to take the voice seriously when things she predicts start happening. Then he takes her very seriously when she predicts his impending death.
The voice is that of actress Emma Thompson who plays a novelist who is struggling against the writer’s block that is preventing her from finishing her most recent book. It is about an IRS auditor named Harold Crick who is about to die, though she hasn’t yet decided how he will die.
The movie’s plot deals with Crick trying to find this voice who is writing his life story before she finishes him off. Will he find her in time? Would the author still kill off Crick if she knew he wasn’t just a fictional character but a real person whose life was controlled by her writing? Even if she does still want to kill off her main character would there be anything Crick could do to stop it? Is she determining Harold’s future in her writing or is Harold determining his future and she is merely taking dictation as his life unfolds? It is all a very creative, existential movie plot.
There is also a love story mixed in. The IRS auditor who has seemed to not be very experienced in romantic matters has finally found the love of his life. This seems very bad timing on account of his imminent death. His love interest is Ana, a free-spirited baker who is played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. She alternates between being very nice and very mean to Harold. Will Harold be able to win her over? Is it worth it to even try since he is probably about to die?
I won’t ruin the movie by answering all these questions. But the answers to these questions work together to form the main message of the film: You aren’t guaranteed another day on earth so you should live life to the fullest. But for a believer, there is an even deeper meaning. We truly believe there is an Author who has written all of our days in His book of life. We must live in such as way that we will not be ashamed in giving an accounting to Him of our lives.
The idea behind this film is very clever. The director (Marc Forster, director of Finding Neverland and Monster’s Ball) does an adequate job as do all the actors. The only actor who really rises above that description is Dustin Hoffman. He does a great job playing a literature professor who attempts to help Harold figure out the type of book in which he is trapped. But everything else seems just slightly above average.
The movie appears to be a comedy in some of the previews. It is funny in parts. But it isn’t a comedy. In fact, Will Ferrell fans might be disappointed by the seriousness of the role. Other comedians (Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, even Adam Sandler in one film that comes to mind) have tried their hand at serious roles with mixed success. The danger of course is that if you are a comedian, your fan base likes you because you are (presumably) funny. Perhaps Ferrell will be introduced to fans of more serious films here.
This film is NOT a family film. It is rated PG-13 but it isn’t anything you’d take even your teenage kids to see. There is one scene of implied adultery (though there is no nudity in that scene). But there is then a scene of Ferrell walking through a men’s locker room while 3 or 4 men take a shower. The camera pans across the shower room showing all the naked guys from behind. I’m not sure why. It seemed totally out of place. Perhaps there is an audience who thinks men’s rear ends in the shower are funny. There are also a dozen or so instances of profanity. If you choose to see it, leave the kids at home. They probably wouldn’t be interested anyway.
It is a shame that a film based around such a clever idea couldn’t have been slightly altered to make an otherwise interesting story more palatable for families. Hollywood continues to add in offensive elements that serve no real purpose to the plot in spite of proof that films that are family friendly will appeal to wider audiences. And that is truly stranger than fiction.
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