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Stranger Than Fiction

Will Ferrell is an acquired taste, to be sure. He was less than appealing in Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy. In fact, I hated him in that movie. Since then, he has always played the same character: loud, obnoxious, and screaming at anyone and anything in sight. So when I went to see Stranger Than Fiction, I was pleasantly surprised at his performance. Not only can he dial down the obnoxiousness, he is actually capable of acting in a relatively nuanced performance that was similar in tone to The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or whatever its called, which coincidentally enough stars another actor known for screaming for no apparent reason … Jim Carrey.

In Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS employee who has done everything to a set schedule for the last 17 years. Or, so we hear from an omniscient narrator that appears to be describing every action that Crick does. As it turns out, she is. The narrator is Kay Eiffel (played by Emma Thompson), an author who writes books where the main character always dies at the end. And, this time, her main character is actually Harold, and he is set to die at the end of her latest book. If only she can get past her writer’s block to do just that.

Harold soon starts falling for the owner of a local bakery, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is determined to not pay her taxes. At the same time, he becomes aware of this voice that seems to know everything he is going to do, and he is determined to find out who this voice belongs to. He goes to a university professor, played by Dustin Hoffman, to help him figure out who is the voice narrating his life and, much to his dismay, his eventual death.

The story takes some relatively conventional twists and turns, eventually leading to Crick meeting with Eiffel and understanding that in fact his death is pre-ordained and is, in fact, the only thing that makes the book great as opposed to merely “ok”. Speaking from my viewpoint, I would have done anything to make sure the book WAS never completed! He seems to take it all too casually, but I think this is supposed to be taken as part of his evolution from government drone to person that enjoys life. Anyway, as you may imagine, things are set up such that poor Ana Pascal doesn’t have to worry about coming home and baking muffins in an empty apartment every night.

I liked the movie. There were good performances all around, although I think Queen Latifah’s role as Kay Eiffel’s assistant really went nowhere. If you liked Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind or anything by Charlie Kaufman, you’ll probably like Stranger Than Fiction3starGood48.