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Saturday, December 02, 2006

***** Stranger than Fiction. Comedy/drama.

Directed by: Marc Forster
Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, & Emma Thompson

Wow. I knew I was going to love this movie when the Cherries started raving about it. Not just that they were raving about it, but what they were saying. And then, I love Emma Thompson and usually like Will Ferrell, so I figured I couldn't miss. The tricky part was getting Carl & the boys to join me. Not only did they join me, but we braved the Galaxy theater at Vogelweh, arriving a half hour early because it's the busiest American theater in the area.

It was worth it, even if we did pretty much finish our popcorn before the movie started.

The story starts with Emma Thompson's voice narrating an ordinary morning in IRS agent Harold Crick's (Will Ferrell) life, a perfectly normal beginning to a movie, until he looks confused and looks around, and the voice stops, then resumes. He's hearing a voice narrating his life, and naturally, it causes a lot of havoc.

He tries to ignore it, but the strain starts to show, so a co-worker gives him the "easier" of two audits--a baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Of course, it's not easier, because the baker is not only a free spirit who'd dropped out of law school to become a baker and who's refusing to pay the percentage of her taxes pertaining to the defense budget, but he's also extremely attracted to her.

Harold consults a psychiatrist, though he's sure he's not crazy, then a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), who after initial resistance, finds the problem fascinating. Turns out Harold Crick is the main character in novelist Kay Eiffel's (Emma Thompson) latest book, and he's screwed, because she always kills her main character in the end.

Ms. Eiffel, meanwhile, is suffering from writer's block, and her publisher sends an assistant (Queen Latifah) to help prod her along.

It's such a clever, fascinating story--the collision of fiction and real life, and it's twisted just a little differently from other stories I've read about fictional characters coming to life, though maybe I just haven't read the right stories. What makes it wonderful, though, is that that isn't all there is to the story.

There's also the love story between Harold and the baker, which was sweet and believable. Her free spirit is a perfect foil for his regimented existence. He makes missteps that aren't silly or cliched, but rather in line with his character, and she reacts in character as well. Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal bring the characters to life so convincingly you forget they're just acting.

There's the story of the author's writer's block and her attempts to foil it--standing at the edge of her desk trying to imagine jumping from a tall building, and the hilarious scene from the previews when she's going through the hospital looking for dying people. The assistant's calm but determined demeanor works so well with the author who's alternately stuck inside her head and going off on flights of fancy. Again, Emma Thompson and Queen Latifah are just perfect in the roles.

And the whole thing makes Harold reevaluate his life, which in turn makes the audience think, and we discussed it all the way home. My men enjoyed it as much as I did.


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Went to see this movie with my sister and brother-in-law over the Thanksgiving holiday. Normally we see at least one movie during the holiday weekend, but it tends to be whatever the big action flick is, since we all agree on action movies. Not so much on other movie genres. He loves Will Ferrell; we do not. We love Emma Thompson; he does not. We were all very impressed by STF.

...but I'm still not a Will Ferrell fan, generally.
I'm so glad you like this movie! I been wanting to see it, since I saw the preview of it. :)
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