Monday, November 13, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

The idea of a person discovering their reality is not what it seems and confronting their maker about it has been done before with Jim Carry in "The Truman Show". Call this "The Truman Show Redeux". Instead of Mr. Carry, we now have Will Ferrell, who discovers he is a character in the imagination of author Karen Eiffel, played by Emma Thompson.

The earlier film played for more laughs while exploring questions of one's existence. "Stranger Than Fiction" forgets the laughs and plays it straight. This is not necessarily a problem, however, one's expectations from the trailer and Mr. Ferrell's history suggest you will be laughing during this film. Mr. Ferrell's attempts at a deadpan dramatic performance are a disappointment. While I applaud his effort, it's too much of a leap for him and the audience finds itself forcing laughs at his situation just because he is Will Ferrell.

The story, moving from the Truman TV reality, places us in the literary world of Karen Eiffel's new book. A novel about Harold Crick that she hasn't finished due to a bad case of writer's block. When Harold actually begins to hear Karen's narration, his mundane world collapses and he is forced to face his mortality as Karen tries to figure out how to kill her character. Along for the ride are Maggie Gyllenhaal as a baker who inexplicably falls for Harold, Dustin Hoffman as a literature professor helping Harold figure things out and Queen Latifah, who is wasted as Karen's assistant. She simply isn't given enough to do.

This is a smarter film than you'd expect. The ideas of existence, free will, and one's fate are entwined throughout the film and the ending finds a manipulative way to keep from painting the story into a corner. It's more entertaining than a philosophy class on free will but it's been done before...and better.