Saturday, November 11, 2006

Write Club: “Stranger Than Fiction” is an Entertainingly Quirky Ode to Literature

There’s one thing that was on my mind after seeing “Stranger Than Fiction.” I want a damn chocolate chip cookie. Not just any cookie, but a warm, homemade cookie. The delicious kind your mom used to make on a snowy winter day as a child. The whole house would reek of chocolate goodness. This film is not only an ode to literature and the interweaving of fiction and reality, but the sweetness of life. It’s all about the little things, i.e. homemade cookies that make life worth living. Perhaps I’m a little ahead of myself, but director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, last year’s Stay) has crafted an intelligent, original film which answers the age old question of what would happen if an author’s fictional main character were actually a real life person living his own real life.

Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is an eccentric author writing a book. Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS agent living his dull life. What they don’t know is how these two separate individuals are related. Harold is the character Thompson is writing about. We’ll learn that they both exist in real time. Harold can hear Kay narrate as she writes her novel. He thinks maybe his toothbrush is talking to him. He asks the woman next to him at the bus stop if she can her the voice too. Perhaps he’s just crazy. Crazy in love that is! He is auditing Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) a baker with her own fabulous cookie shop. (Geez where is this place, I wanna go there!) Ana and Harold have a love-hate relationship that just might develop into a love-love relationship. Ana just happens to be the person to show Harold that life doesn’t have to be so mundane.

Kay has a problem in that she doesn’t know how to kill off her main character. Her books have always been successful because she kills off her protagonists for dramatic purposes. Maybe a car crash? Maybe he should jump off a building? The thing is, since Harold just so happens to be a real person, the audience is completely and quickly sucked in to what Harold’s fate will be. Harold receives some advice from English professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman). Hilbert suggests to Harold that he figure out what kind of novel the voice is narrating and perhaps then he can track down the author and prevent her from killing him off.

No description can give this movie the justice it deserves. It’s very funny, extremely smart, completely original (credit first time screenwriter Zach Helm) movie. It’s some sort of cross mutation Charlie Kaufman and Woody Allen hybrid that delivers in spades. If you’re in the mood for a smart, beautifully made slice of American entertainment, with great actors giving even greater performances, Stranger Than Fiction is the way to go. It’s certainly one of the most unique films of the year that certainly makes life a little sweeter. GRADE: B+