Stranger Than Fiction


Reviewed by: David Stanners

Stranger Than Fiction
"Has enough quirkiness and originality in both concept and script to provide a springboard for some terrific performances."

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is a tax inspector with tendencies bordering on OCD. Each morning he gets up at bang on the minute, brushes his teeth counting each stroke back and forth, and then counts each step to work without deviation. Living the bachelor life, nothing interrupts his ubiquitous daily routines, until one day his world is turned on its head when he starts hearing his every move being narrated by a strange female voice.

Baffled and perturbed beyond belief he begins to break things down. Is the voice in his ear influencing his actions, or merely reflecting them? We soon find out that the voice is that of legendary author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who specialises in tragedy novels and in a bizarre parallel world is penning the life of Harold with her usual aim of killing off her protagonist.

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One day while Harold is waiting to cross the road, her voice spells death. Tearing his hair out for answers, Crick approaches eminent literary professor and part time pool life guard Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), who through a system of analysis deciphers that he could be part of a tragedy. Meanwhile, Harold reluctantly continues his job auditing his latest case, that of Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a quirky baker with an alternative attitude to life and taxes. Asking her to show him her books slowly leads to her showing him her chocolate cookies, and ends in the unlikely location of underneath the bedcovers.

Experiencing love and life puts Harold in a different orbit, and his desire to track down Karen gets stronger as he believes his fate to be in her hands. Desperate to find her, he hopes to persuade her to remove the splinter of ice that Graham Greene said was in every writer's heart, and shift the genre of his story from tragedy to comedy.

Marc Forster has devised a clever piece of work here. Although not a wholly original idea, this will appear fresh to most, and has enough quirkiness and originality in both concept and script to provide a springboard for some terrific performances. Will Ferrell uses his command of understated comic timing beautifully. Reminiscent of the young Chevy Chase, with his low key humour and nonchalant behaviour, he sums up perfectly the characteristics of a man completely out of kilter with what's going on around him. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also first rate, and continues to charm in another anti establishment, non mainstream role. A former Harvard student turned baker with wacky arm tattoos who falls for a straighter than straight tax man fails to add up in the best possible way. Emma Thompson also puts in a good stint as the eccentric novelist with a final point to prove, and Hoffman is as watchable as he always is.

Although coated in sugary sentiment towards the end, this will not detract from what will appeal to a very large Saturday night couples crowd.

Reviewed on: 02 Dec 2006
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A fictional character fights for his life in the real world.
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Read more Stranger Than Fiction reviews:

Chris ****
Angus Wolfe Murray ***

Director: Marc Forster

Writer: Zach Helm

Starring: Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah, Linda Hunt, Tom Hulce, Larry Neumann Jr

Year: 2006

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


London 2006

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