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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ferrell Departure a Success

Cast, director weave great story into good premise
by Jan Stetter/QCFMag.com
Stranger Than Fiction is an entertaining movie about a mild mannered IRS employee who lives his life in a comfortable fashion, counting his way to each new day.
Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick who counts his toothbrush strokes, the steps to get from his door to the bus line, and the obligatory moments he takes for his daily work break.
His life is neither here nor there. Until one day he hears a voice narrating his numeric existence.
Only he can hear this English accented voice spoken by Emma Thompson, who plays author Kay Eiffel, as she types the details of Harold Crick’s character. Crick is the protagonist in her latest novel—which makes for an entertaining movie premise.

It works due to the talents of director Marc Forster, who himself has a successful film career. He directed the whimsical Finding Neverland and the stark Monster’s Ball. He encourages his actors to define their roles as if they really do live in their characters’ shoes. An element of sweet self-realization for Harold Crick and his tentative moving beyond his calculated comfort zones is examples. Emma Thompson’s refusal to wear makeup for the movie to reflect her character’s recluse nature, and Dustin Hoffman’s quirky performance as a literary authority who is a college professor and faculty life guard makes this movie very pleasurable.

In another instance, Mr. Forster encourages Maggie Gyllenhaal, Harold’s female love interest Ana Pascal, to abandon her contempt for her nemesis, the Tax Man. She is presented as an intelligent, bohemian, café owner who is rebel enough to withhold a percentage of her taxes to show her disapproval of government spending. This action confounds Harold as much as Ana is dumbfounded by Harold’s loyalty to his job and lack of pretense. It is this dynamic that makes us care about these two people. We know people who are uptight and live by the letter of the law and those who are unabandoned and free spirited.

This story could have been successful as a simple love story or even a quaint film about human nature without the vehicle of fantasy mingling with reality. Who could go wrong with the supporting actors who carry this film? It’s as if each one serves to endear them to the heart of this movie.

This movie has heart. And there lies the discomfiture. People going to Stranger Than Fiction expecting a laugh-out-loud performance by Will Ferrell will be seriously disappointed—as that is how the movie is being promoted. Why don't distributors of these movies let the story speak for itself?
Maybe that would be stranger than fiction.

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