Author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is writing a fiction novel about an IRS agent, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), who lives a very mundane and lonely life. In fact, she is writing about the days leading up to his tragic yet poetic death. The only problem is Harold Crick is actually a real person. He is every bit as real as Karen Eiffel accurately depicts him to be to the slightest detail. Somehow, as Mr. Crick lives his life, he is able to hear Karen’s words in his head as she is typing out her story. He at first tries to ignore the voice but it becomes so distracting it begins to effect his job.
Eventually he hears the voice say, “Little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death.” This sets off the panic alarm for Harold. He visits a psychologist and eventually literary Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) to help him make sense of it all. With the aid of Professor Hilbert, Harold Crick has to determine why this omniscient voice seems to know of his “imminent death” so he can prevent it from happening.
If you enjoy (what I refer to as) ’Twilight Zone-esque’ movies such as Groundhog Day or Liar Liar where a strange phenomenon engulfs the main character’s life with little to no explanation then give this movie a watch. I consider this a hidden gem. Will Ferrell takes a step back from his wild self and plays a calm and lonely man truly set in his own ways. Everyday is a routine for him. He does have his freak out moments caused by the nagging narration where the Will Ferrell we all know and love almost creeps out but for the most part his character is very timid. It’s good to see Will Ferrell do a more serious character for a change. It’s still a comedy and he still manages to be funny but it’s not his usual slapstick humor.
Emma Thompson is just amazing as Karen Eiffel – the author of the book that is somehow being transmitted into Harold’s head. Her portrayal of an esteemed and secluded writer is spot on. She has a dark mind obsessed with death. She has a strong imagination and puts such deep thought into how she wants to kill off Harold Crick. We actually see her imagining death and she puts herself in settings where she can really play out death sequences in her head. Karen Eiffel is actually my favorite character in this movie and Emma Thompson’s performance is just superb.
Dustin Hoffman is just a treat throughout this movie. His portrayal of Professor Jules Hilbert is so much fun to watch. He has this energy about him. He is such a quick thinker and keeps Harold on his toes. His addiction to coffee probably contributes to that. He is so animated and offers Harold invaluable advice.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Ana Pascal is also a fun-loving character. The complete opposite of Harold Crick’s timid self. An out-going and free-spirited social butterfly, it is her charm that really catches Harold’s eye. Sadly, he has to overcome the fact that he is the IRS agent assigned to audit her bakery. The development of the relationship between the two is a delight to watch!
Stranger Than Fiction can be misunderstood at first because the premise of the movie actually seems right up the alley of a typical Will Ferrell movie. The situation actually does allow for some slapstick Will Ferrell freakout moments. However, this is not a typical Will Ferrell movie and he keeps his SNL humor out of this one. This movie had a 38 million dollar budget and only grossed 40 million. I suspect that it is because people were expecting a different kind of movie and left the theaters disappointed. With a mix of literary jargon and mathematical references throughout the movie this is a pretty intelligent movie most especially for a Will Ferrell movie. I think knowing this ahead of time will help you to appreciate the movie more.
Stranger Than Fiction is such a fun and witty movie. The characters are just a joy to watch. Although Karen Eiffel’s narration is the driving force to Harold Crick’s cause of paranoia for fear of death, since it is coming from such an esteemed author, it also serves as (literally) narration for such a pleasurable yet seemingly tragic story that leaves viewers with a poetic and gratifying ending.
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