Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) lives a boring life. He has no friends or social life. He works as an auditor for the IRS. He's so boring that he counts the number of times he brushes his teeth in the morning and the number of steps he takes.
All that changes one Wednesday. When he wakes up that morning, he hears a voice narrating his every action. Of course, this creeps him out, and his co-workers begin to notice his odd behavior. But things get even worse on his way home from work when the voice predicts his imminent death.
Harold doesn't relish that idea, so he begins to look for help with his problem. Eventually, he comes in contact with English professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), who tries to help him figure out what to do from a literary standpoint.
Meanwhile, famed novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is trying to figure out how to end her latest book, DEATH AND TAXES. She's got everything except how to kill off her main character, Harold Crick.
As far as I can remember, I've only seen one other Will Ferrell movie. Most of the previews look too over the top for my taste. This one intrigued me, however, so I set aside my prejudices and went to see it. I'm glad I did.
To be honest, I expected a funnier movie. This isn't Ferrell's normal over the top gag fest. It is funny, and I laughed through most of it. Just not as often as I thought I would.
That's because there's an underlying pathos to the story. Facing death, Harold realizes that he's never really lived. This gives him the boldness to go for some things he's always wanted to do and make some friends. The performances by the entire cast wonderfully walk the balance between the comedy and the more elements of the film.
Yeah, there were scenes that could have been funnier, but I like the final product. It's a great mix of comedy and drama that kept me entertained for the full two hours.
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go hang out with my friends.
on 8 April 2007
just watched this film on dvd and i have to say it is the best film i have seen in a long time.will ferrell is excellent in a semi straight role. and the way he brings a subtle humour into his character shows he is a better actor than i ever thought. dutin hoffman is great as always, as is emma thompson. and i can always watch maggie gylenhal. (gorgeous). to put it simply, watch this film because its fantastic
Stranger Than Fiction is the story of Harold Crick; a maths genius who's working for the IRS. He's got to audit a beautiful baker, Ana Pascal, but he's got an annoying problem: he's got a female narrator following him around. Things get worse for Crick when she announces he'll die, and his only hope is a professor to save him, but the big mistake he's made is he's forgotten to free himself.
Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson are amazing in this film, Farrell showing that he can do serious roles as well as be very funny (Anchorman, Starsky And Hutch, just to name a few), and Thompson with her typical English Rose flair. I also enjoyed Queen Latifah's role, often overlooked by many and has redeemed her from her poor role in Taxi and Bringing Down The House. If you're expecting a lot of comical moments, then you won't be disappointed, but it's not a comedy as per say, and the bottom line is that it's more of a love story.
The blu-ray is a delight, beautiful colours and well produced by Sony (but what would we expect, this is their format?) - with it's crystal clear uncompressed PCM audio, 4.5mbps constant, and the 1.85:1 is quite nice too, as it's full screen for 16:9 displays. The video is 1080p and runs at a steady 25Mbps - which is pretty good. The blu-ray disk is the full BD50, which is great too, as you get ALL the extras from the DVD edition.
Talking about the extras, you get quite a few too: Actors in Search of Story, Building the Team, Words on a Page, On Location in Chicago, On the Set and Picture a Number: The Evolution of a GUI are excellent featurettes. There's also deleted scenes and an extended scene, and the trailer too.
If you love this film, have blu-ray, stop reading this and buy, you're in for a treat and is a flagship blu-ray release. If you like the film, then also consider renting this, it's an example to all the film companies on how to produce decent blu-ray releases.
4/5 for the film, 5/5 for the HD transfer
on 18 August 2007
Quite frankly i love this film, and i think it would be impossible for others not to fall in love with it. The dialog is subdued and toned down but also excellently timed for some truly hilarious moments, there's some great pathos, and all of the actors (especially Will Ferrel) give brilliant performances. Many compare this film to 'The Truman Show' starring Jim Carrey (presumably because a renounced comic actor is playing a more serious role) and 'Stranger Than Fiction' is as good as that modern masterpiece.
I was hooked from start to finish, and although the ending was slightly clumsy and obviously targeted towards a mainstream audience, it didn't ruin the film.
Highly recommended if you are looking for something different, but not too strange.
on 26 December 2007
Like most people, I thought this film wasn't going to be as good as it turned out to be as Will Ferrell usually appears in more run-of-the-mill, predictable comedies and his characters are very typecast. However, his performance in this film has made me respect him more as an actor. In my opinion, I think this film is similar to The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you liked these films then you will definitely like the quirkiness and originality of 'Stranger than fiction.' The film is well-written and endearing with great performances from Thompson, Hoffman and surprisingly, Ferrell, who should really appear in more serious roles. The film's primary theme is about life and how sacred it is; how it is unpredictable and really worth living even at desperate times when you feel your life isn't going anywhere. It's one of those films that makes you think afterwards and makes you feel positive about your own life. To me that is a successful film. You must see it!
on 23 March 2008
This is a truly wonderful film. Most films these days have such predictable plots, full of special effects, snazzy camera angles and dodgy scripts. But Stranger Than Fiction has so many things going for it. For starters, the plot is unusual, unpredictable and absorbing. I found the story utterly mesmerising. The acting is superb... there is not a single bad delivery or any evidence of an inflated ego. The script was perfect and whoever wrote it deserves an award. Complete the package with a superb soundtrack and you have one excellent and thoroughly enjoyable film. One of the best films I've seen in years!
I'm not going to make any great claims for this movie, and yet it is thoroughly enjoyable, a little gem of marvel and wit. I was attracted to it by its Charlie Kaufman-esque plot, the splendid cast, and by the fact that the job Will Ferrell's character does in the movie is mine own. And lord knows it's not a job that appears THAT often in the movies: even librarians and dentists get more airtime than us roving taxmen.
It's opening narration (by the Emma Thompson character) announces to the audience that, "This is a story about a man named Harold Crick ... and his wristwatch." Which is not really true, but yet it is. (I did say the clever script is Kaufman-esque.) Really, the film is about death and taxes, or rather death in the context of taxes; we must all face death at some point, after all. You could also say that the film's overarching theme is death by novel-writing, with the written phrase "Little did he know, ..." taking an important role in the plot. (I hope this review makes you intrigued rather than confused!)
But not only is the script clever; it is also very funny without being necessarily comedic. There are some great gags involving, for example, bendi-buses, but the humour is mostly realistically situational in day-to-day terms. Of course, as the story unfolds and we get to know our characters more, pathos trumps comedy, or rather the balance of tragic-comedy shifts towards the former, "without betraying the audience" according to the film's producer (well, almost).
Buying the DVD is useful because on subsequent screenings you get to see the little details that were maybe missed on previous occasions. For instance, when Harold Crick talks to the tax office shrink the cloudscape behind Harold's head is stationary, but when Crick starts to daydream it starts to move very slowly. Another example is the brief second-of-a-clip where we see Harold in his lunch break looking at catalogues of ... calculators and other adding machines. You soon discover too that all the characters in the film bear the surnames of famous and not-so-famous mathematicians. (Dr Mittag-Leffler anyone?)
There is a generous helping of extras on my version of the DVD, with two deleted/extended scenes and over an hour's worth of featurettes. Here the producer makes the valid point that, "The best comedy always has deep pain underneath it and then the further you go into the pain inevitably there are going to be jokes there." As an example, she uses the response of Will Ferrell's character to the question put by that of Dustin Hoffman's (a professor of English literature): "I may already be dead ... just not [yet] typed."
on 29 November 2007
I almost didn't see this movie when I saw that Will Ferrell was in it. But the plot sounded interesting enough for me to see it. Will Ferrell is so extroverted I did not see how he could play this part. So much for type casting, for Will Ferrell actually brought his character to life, Harold Crick. An IRS Auditor whose life is numbers. He wakes up one morning and hears his life is being narrated and he comes to realize that he has no control of his fate.
Maggie Gyllenhaal does a wonderful job as Ana Pascal, a baker that Harold Crick has to audit. Dustin Hoffman seemed to have fun playing Professor Jules Hilbert an expert of literature who knows that great literature lives on forever and gives advice to Harold. Queen Latifah plays the narrator's very professional assistant Penny Escher, which brings a great dynamic between her and Emma's character. Emma Thompson, playing a famed author who is actually writing a novel about Death and Taxes, is the narrator and her brilliance as an actor is obvious in this film.
There are many levels to this film; it is a drama that has some light moments, a tapestry of comedy and tragedy. The story is engaging and worth watching. To share more of the plot and the deeper meaning I found in it pertaining to life and literature I feel would ruin the first viewing pleasure of this film. The computer graphics interface that represents how Harold process information actually enhances the viewing pleasure without getting in way of the performance. It also brought to mind a quote of John Lennon's; "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I will watch this movie filled with rich characters again.
on 21 April 2008
Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an ordinary Civil Servant. Going about his daily life he hears the voice of an author narrating her new novel. A shrink advises Crick to take prescribed medication but he's convinced he's acting out the novel's main character. The novelist Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is reputed for always killing off her lead character. So Crick is on mission to track her down before it's too late! Eiffel's writing assistant is played by the rap-artist Queen Latifah.
Employed by the Inland Revenue, Crick is sent to audit a baker who pays only 78% of her taxes. He instantly falls in love with the baker - the gorgeous but rebellious Anna Pascale (Maggie Gyllenhaal). What begins as a sort of love/hate relationship flourishes over time. Dustin Hoffman excels as ever. Originally he wanted the lead role in this movie but I suspect the directors were reluctant to cast him dating the stunningly cute Gyllenhaal, an actress 40 years his junior! So he has to settle for the eccentric Professor Jules Hilbert instead. He's an important character who helps Crick track down the elusive novelist. It's all very well cast. Even Crick's wristwatch becomes a character in the story!
If you're after something a bit different yet not too "off the wall", check out this film. I for one am very happy to award it the full five stars.
on 8 March 2008
An astounding film, it kept me gripped the whole way through. For me all the boxes are ticked, the director, script, plot, cast, the lot. Having watched Will Ferrell in much less serious roles recently it has been refreshing and highly impressive to see Will being the somewhat straight character. This highly moving production has immediatly blemished the previously untouched fabric of my top 5 films of all time!