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February 27, 2007


DVD of the Week – Stranger than Fiction (2006)


Stranger than Fiction is far from a perfect movie. I remember my initial impression of the film was that Zach Helm’s screenplay seemed like watered-down Charlie Kaufman (writer of films like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). However, director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) is no hack, and he has made a very good, accessible film based on a fantastical premise.

The film centers on IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) who discovers a voice in his head narrating his life. Eventually, with the help of a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), he realizes that he is part of an unfinished manuscript by writer Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson). Things also become complicated when he falls for one of the women he is supposed to be auditing (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Once you get past the premise, the film is generally realistic. Plus, the aspects of romantic comedy are much more palatable than the sense of dread that pervades many surrealistic films. Sure, Stranger than Fiction is not going to reach the heights that you can expect from a film by David Lynch or Spike Jonze, but this is still an enjoyable film without too much extra weirdness. This is the sort of film you can recommend to your parents (assuming you’re not lucky enough to have hip parents), and while they might think it’s odd, they can still get wrapped up in the story. Besides, how often are you going to get to see Will Ferrell in a semi-serious role?

The film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, and contains extended and deleted scenes. There are also a slew of featurettes.

Other new releases this week: A Good Year, The Return, Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. James
    Feb 27 2007

    Is Jessica Biel in this movie? Because if not, I’m not interested.

    In all seriousness, I also recommend this fine film. Personally, I feel like the jump to compare it to the work of Kaufman is a tad premature, as I’m sure the postmodern approach to filmmaking has been mined before. “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” or “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” are fine examples of other movies that utilize this strategy; “Stranger Than Fiction” has more for company besides Kaufman’s work, as acclaimed as it (rightfully) is. They all blur fact and fiction and cause us as viewers to ask what is ultimately real. And by that I mean “real” in a universal sense as opposed to the strictly plotwise elements.

  2. Feb 27 2007

    I am aware that this style extends beyond Kaufman. I wouldn’t quite say that it is surrealism, but more of a magical realism. Most of the examples that I can think of are from literature (like Borges) rather than film.

    I used Kaufman as an example between it seems as though Stranger than Fiction attempted to be an imitation of Kaufman, a criticism that I still think is valid.

  3. Jeff Faulkner
    Feb 28 2007

    It is an imitation of Kaufman. A warmed over one at that. Will Ferrell gave a noted performance, proving that he can act seriously when need be, other than that it was tedious.

  4. laura
    Feb 28 2007

    Actually I went to see the movie with my Dad and he thought it was “ok” but too weird. Then again, my Dad is a WWII vet and 83 years old , so this may have had something to do with his opinion. He usually likes movies with Tom Hanks, and Jim Carrey.
    I , on the other hand, cried and cried at this movie- of course I LOVE Will Ferrell.

  5. Anita
    Mar 24 2007

    I’m no movie expert but I do have to say that I truly enjoyed this film. I absolutely loved Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance, but then again, I’m biased because after I watched “Secretary” I melt with her everytime. This was a remarkable film with a remarkable cast, and even though it’s premise is very similar to Kaufman’s films, I loved it. Will Ferrell’s performance was excellent. If you are a sentimental fool who loves magic realism this is a must!