Friday, April 06, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

One day Will Ferrell woke up to find that he was a cockroach.

Okay, Will Ferrell doesn't exactly look and talk like Gregor Samsa, but if Franz Kafka were writing Metamorphosis today, it would look like Stranger than Fiction.

One day IRS auditor Harold Crick wakes up to find out that only he can hear a narration of his life. The narration begins to affect everything, even screwing up how many steps and minutes it takes to get to the bus, and how many exact strokes it takes to brush his teeth. He connects with no one, either at home or at work. In other words, Harold has no life, and somebody is taking note of it.

This is a quiet yet compelling movie, and -- yes, it has to be said -- Will Ferrell isn't over-the-top goofy here. People walking into the movie theatre expecting histrionics might get a few when Harold comes to a few realizations, but mostly it's an internal journey, only broken up by (uncredited) Dustin Hoffman, who is very funny as a literary professor who is an expert on the overused phrase in pop literature, "Little did he know..."

For me, the movie was a little slow, but picked up tremendously when Harold meets Ana, an anti-establishment baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal in her best role yet) who begins to see the Harold under the Crick.

There are a lot of little fun jokes here, like when Harold brings Ana flours (instead of flowers). There's not a lot of there there to the plot, however, and not a lot of Emma Thompson, who is top-billed but almost invisible in a subplot about writer's block. Still, it's a good lesson for each of us to sit down occasionally, look at our armor, and wonder if we've turned into an insect.

Thumb's up.


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