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:


et cetera