Alice in Movieland

{January 15, 2010}   Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

So, it was at this point that I’d had my fill of Alan Rickman (::gasp:: Blasphemy!! I know, right? Just temporarily!). I needed a romantic comedy. Something. Anything. As long as it didn’t have Alan Rickman in it. So I opted for the first one that popped into my head, which happened to be Bridget Jones’s Diary. But, as you can see, this post isn’t about Bridget Jones’s Diary. Rather, I somehow just came across a trailer for Stranger Than Fiction (which this post *is* about) and can’t resist running off and watching it. Right now. Mid-post.

Two hours later… I must say I liked it. Normally, I despise Will Ferrell (Bewitched being the one tolerable exception). Granted, I’ve practically refused to watch anything he’s been in since I saw Elf, but all the previews for his movies look retarded, and if there’s one type of movie that I hate, it’s retarded, “stupid humor” movies. The kind I associate Will Ferrell with. (…actually, I can’t stand horror either, but anyway…) *This*, though, was actually *good*.

He plays Harold Crick. IRS agent, low-key, uptight, moderately obsessive-compulsive, intelligent, shy, self-isolated Harold Crick. Will Ferrell?! Will Ferrell is playing a nice, decent (if at first glance somewhat boring), non-obnoxious, relatively sedate personality???!! Holy cow!! And he *nails* it. Positively adorable, sweet, and, dare I say it, attractive. See guys? It *is* all about the personality.

As I was saying, he plays Harold Crick. Normal guy, normal routine, suddenly starts hearing voices one day. Well, one voice, and it’s narrating his life. Harold’s a little freaked out by this (wouldn’t you be?), but he tries to ignore it… until it foreshadows his death. “What?! Why??!!!” And thus begins his quest to prevent his death, in the course of which he learns to live. Oh, he was alive, but he hadn’t been living. He’d been mindlessly plodding along, working at a joyless job, living alone… Now, he’s stepping out, taking a vacation, learning to play the guitar, and working up enough nerve to get the girl. …and trying to find the narrator (Emma Thompson) who’s going to kill him. Well, she doesn’t know she’s going to kill him. She, Karen Eiffel, thinks he’s just a character in her book. When she finds out that he’s real, she’s striken, remembering all the other characters she’s killed and wondering if they were real. But the end of her book *needs* him to die. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but when Harold reads the manuscript, he’s willing to die for the sake of another. Will Ms. Eiffel do it? Will she kill Harold Crick?

This is a smart, endearing movie that strikes the perfect balance between comedy and tragedy and has you rooting for the unlikely hero you’ve come to care about.

Emma Thompson does an excellent job portraying the reclusive, chain-smoking writer suffering from writers’ block. Some of the most unusual scenes show her trying to overcome her problem by hanging out in emergency rooms and imagining jumping off buildings in her attempts to come up with the proper way to kill Harold. Undoubtedly my favorite line in the movie is her saying, “I don’t need a nicotine patch, Penny. I smoke cigarettes.”

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Ana Pascal, the woman Harold is auditing and finds himself attracted to, despite knowing she hates him for auditing her. Her character is in many ways the opposite of Harold (a look at their apartments removes all doubt – his is in varying shades of beige while hers has a turquoise accent wall and a multicolored chandelier). She looked familiar so I went looking for where else I’d seen her. She later played Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight. Queen Latifah and Dustin Hoffman also have supporting roles as the assistant sent by the publisher to help Ms. Eiffel finish the book and the literature professor that Harold goes to for help in finding the narrator. Can be found online at the links provided here.

The guitar store scene (quite funny):

And the best way to pick up a woman: honest & humble sensitivity + vulnerable sharing of emotions & desires + puppydog eyes (thoughtful gift-giving helps).

Interview with Will Ferrell:


{January 11, 2010}   Sense and Sensibility (1995)

I started my adventure with Alan Rickman’s Sense and Sensibility. I call it Alan Rickman’s because it was his movies I continued following for the next week and a half (my entries here will follow suit).

The cast boasts several of my favorites: Alan Rickman *obviously* (Colonel Brandon), Hugh Grant (Edward Ferrars), and Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood), and I was delighted to see Gemma Jones and Hugh Laurie in supporting roles. Kate Winslet plays Marianne Dashwood and impressively portrays the younger sister’s passionate and impetuous temperment, as well as her prideful disdain for Elinor’s careful reserve and ponder-things-in-your-heart approach. I believe that pride is why Marianne is not my favorite of the two sisters. It is, however, this conflict in approach which the story centers upon.

From the beginning of the movie, Elinor is attracted to Edwards, but quietly treasures it away because she has no assurance of his returning the feeling. This appears to have been for the best when she meets a girl claiming to be his fiancée and must bear a broken heart in silence. Emma Thompson does a wonderful job of subtly showing the pain Elinor hides as she believes all hope is lost. Meanwhile, Marianne falls hard for Willoughby (played by Greg Wise) and hardly notices (though when she does notice, she looks down on) the more sedate Colonel Brandon. Brandon’s love, however, though restrained, never fades. Difficulties trouble both women, but by the end of the movie, Elinor is able to open up and share her emotions and Marianne has learned the wisdom of not letting her emotions carry her away.

In addition to playing the part of Elinor, Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay. She did a wonderful job of preserving the spirit of the book while freshening it for modern viewers. Most notably, she  added the scene where Marianne is standing in the rain, looking over to Willoughby’s estate on the far hill, repeating his name and the sonnet they had shared, and then is carried back by Colonel Brandon. The addition of this scene is brilliant because 1) it parallels her having been carried home in the rain by Willoughby earlier and 2) the sonnet she is whispering about her love for Willoughby (“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no, it is an ever-fixèd mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken”) is seen to perfectly describe Colonel Brandon’s love for her.

This is the performance in which Alan Rickman stole my heart. One of my favorite movies. Cemented my love of Austen and period romances. I consider it a must-have for any woman’s movie collection, though the entire thing can be found on YouTube here. I’ve embedded the trailer below and, further down, there’s a clip of Alan Rickman discussing what it was like working with Taiwanese Ang Lee as the director, as well as a deleted last scene.

Sites for more Sense and Sensibility info and reviews:

Additionally, there’s a clip of Ang Lee discussing the movie himself, but you have to go to YouTube to watch it because embedding was disabled.

And lastly, a scene they deleted from the end of the movie:

et cetera