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Stranger than Fiction

Genre: Comedy / Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
: Marc Forster
Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson
Released by: Sony Pictures

In Short: Will Ferrell shifts gears and gives a subdued, charming performance in this romantic comedy about a man whose life story is literally right out of a novel.

A Novel Approach
Will Ferrell Changes His Comic Style

by Jenny Peters

For those of us who usually find Will Ferrell movies to be too far on the dumb side of the comedy spectrum, “Stranger than Fiction” comes as a pleasant surprise. Instead of acting like his usual half-naked dolt (think “Old School,” “Anchorman”), here the longtime “Saturday Night Live” regular shifts his style with winning results.

He plays Harold Crick, a seriously buttoned-down, numbers-obsessed IRS auditor who one morning starts hearing a voice in his head narrating his life. After consulting a psychiatrist, he figures out that perhaps he's not crazy and instead needs a literary expert to help him discover why the narrator knows so much about his life. Dustin Hoffman is his usual affable self as the literature professor who comes to Crick’s aid; the pair does actually figure out what's going on and it is more than slightly surreal.

For it seems that famed author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson, in a truly inspired performance) is actually writing a novel about Harold, a fact that he, as her character, isn't supposed to be aware of. It's an odd concept, but one that accomplished director Marc Forster (“Monster's Ball,” “Finding Neverland”) and his talented cast bring to believable life. Thompson's take on how writer's block can make life a living hell is dead-on and Queen Latifah is pitch perfect as Eiffel’s calm assistant assigned to help her finish the book. Maggie Gyllenhaal is particularly likable, as the cookie-making entrepreneur whose luminous presence makes Harold desperate to stay alive, despite his author's plan to kill him by the last page.

But don't expect a “Borat”-like belly-laugh-filled movie here. Instead, “Stranger than Fiction” is more intellectual—a clever, well-acted, smile-filled look at how easy it is to get into a personal rut, spotlighting the risks we all run when taking life for granted and not seizing every day like it was our last.


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