Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

I love midnight movies. In a city the size of Memphis, that's really the only time to go see a good flick. The crowds aren't so big, the audience is almost exclusively adult, there are no screaming kids, cell phones aren't ringing as much in the middle of the night... it's just a good experience.

This past Friday, I was not in any mood to sleep, so I caught the midnight showing of the new Will Ferrell film Stranger Than Fiction. I decided to go mainly because Will Ferrell was in it. I'd heard about it, but not a whole lot, but I knew that it was a story about a man whose life was suddenly being narrated, so I figured it would be a couple of hours of Will Ferrell goofiness, along the lines of Talladega Nights or Anchorman.

I was wrong. But this was a good thing.

Stranger Than Fiction turned out to be so much more than that. It catches you off guard, because at any moment you expect Will to just go completely batty and start running around in his underpants. Instead, it digs deep into your skin and makes you (gasp!) think.

I won't spoil the story too much for you, because you should really go out to see it for yourself. But here's the basic beginning of it: Will Ferrell plays a character by the name of Harold Crick, an obsessive-compulsive, workaholic IRS agent with absolutely no social skills or a life outside of his nice neat little pattern. He counts tiles on walls; he's just that compulsive. He almost borders on autism with his command of numbers. Anyway, Harold's life is completely structured and mapped out...that is until a voice that only he can hear starts literally narrating his life. As it turns out, the voice that is narrating his life is that of an author who is writing a novel about Harold, unaware that he is a real person and unaware that what she is writing is affecting his life.

I won't go into details, because I don't want to spoil anything. You need to see this film. But the ensuing journey of self-actualization and self-analysis that comes as Harold starts to understand his situation is extremely relevant to the way most of us live our lives. I'll admit, for the most part, my life is pretty well scripted. I left the theater wondering how I could change that. If you can leave this film without doing even the most cursory evaluation of whether or not you're living your life the way you should be, then you just weren't paying attention.

On the other hand, the story is not a complete drama-fest. There are a few times when the typical Will Ferrell peeks through. There are no underpants scenes. There are a few laughs, but the humor is played mainly for relief from dramatic tension. If you're going with the expectation of being made to belly laugh, you will leave unfulfilled. If, on the other hand, you want a movie that will make you think, this is the one to see.

The film also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman, both of whom are made to look like rank amateurs by Ferrell. Who knew he was such a good actor?

Long review made short, go see this movie. And when you see it, learn a little about yourself.


At 12:55 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

I cannot WAIT to see this movie... love Will Ferrell and love the premise... so unique!

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Stacy said...

We saw this on a RARE (too rare) date night last weekend. Walking out of the theater I was thinking how to blog about it.

I never did but MAN...I loved it! Very smart movie. Will Ferrell was awesome! Maggie G (however you spell it) is adorable. Emma Thompson made me sad (where is that beautiful woman I met in Dead Again??)

I have wondered what other smart folks thought about this movie. Again, I was really impressed but I question whether or not I'm just easily entertained.

Glad to know you liked it, too!!

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous CK said...

I'm so glad for this I've been meaning to see it (but saw Borat instead). Will go see this because it's do down my alley--and Ferrell can do both drama and comedy.

Thanks for sharing your take.


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