Stranger Than Fiction (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Will Ferrell in a good movie?
Yes, you read that correctly. Not only that, but the positive rating is
due in large part to Ferrell’s effective acting. This isn’t the stupid,
silly Ferrell from “Talladega Nights” and “Anchorman.” This is a guy who
can act when given a good script (first-timer Zach Helm) and brilliant
direction (Marc Forester), which he gets here.
Adding to the reasons why
this is such a good movie are the performances of Emma Thompson, Maggie
Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah, to name a few.
Harold Crick (Ferrell) finds
himself in a metaphysical, Kafkaesque dilemma; he’s an unwitting,
unwilling character in a novel being written by Kay Eiffel (Thompson).
He hears her voice as she’s writing about him. Kay, who always kills off
her protagonists, doesn’t know she’s writing about a real person. He
doesn’t know to whom the voice he hears giving a play-by-play of his
life belongs. When he complains about the voice to doctors, they dismiss
it by saying he must be schizophrenic. Then he finds college professor
Jules Hibert (Hoffman), a teacher of literature, who agrees to try to
help Harold solve his problem.
The only weak scene in the
movie occurs when Ana Pascal (Gyllenhaal), a baker Harold is auditing
and for whom he falls, and Harold have their first kiss. There was
nothing soft, sweet, or affectionate about the way Ana attacks Harold.
In fact, the way she was attacking his face with her mouth it looked as
if Harold needed some sort of protection to protect his lips, teeth, and
tongue. Not anything I would call sweet, affectionate, or erotic. When I
see a scene like this, I wonder about its derivation. Does Gyllenhaal
not know how to kiss? Does the director think that people find this type
of love-making funny? I thought it neither funny nor romantic.
But that’s small potatoes
considering the theme and depth of the movie. There’s a lot more here
than comes across in the misleading promotion. Ferrell and Thompson give
spectacular performances. Ferrell plays it straight, something he should
try more often, like, always. He takes a difficult role and wins the day
with a sensitive and believable portrayal. Good as Ferrell is, Thompson
gives a performance that blew my mind as a conflicted writer, fighting
her unseen demons. This is a film of a tightly controlled man who loses
the beloved control he has over everything he does, and how he responds
and reacts. Advertised as a comedy, there are some funny lines. But as
the movie progresses it’s got far too much depth to be viewed as a
November 7, 2006