Released in 2006, Stranger Than Fiction stars Will Ferrell as Harold Crick, a normal and ordinary man living a normal and ordinary life until one day he begins hearing a voice in his head narrating his thoughts, actions, and various events in his life, as if he were a character in a book. Annoyed at first, Harold becomes quite desperate when the narrator foreshadows his death. What follows is a romantic-drama-comedy that may initially seem to be outside of Ferrell’s comfort zone, but proves to be a pleasant surprise.
This review will consider the good and the bad of Stranger Than Fiction. There will be spoilers.
Overall, the film is great. It’s entertaining, it’s funny, and it has a curious premise. Backed by a solid screenplay and presentation, Stranger Than Fiction is a neat little package wrapped up with a pretty bow on top.
Will Ferrell deserves to be applauded here. I was initially skeptical of his ability to perform in a non-comedic role, but like the second coming of Robin Williams, the comedian proves effective in the dramatic setting. There is one scene, especially, when Harold is trying to come to grips with the fact that his “story” ends with his premature death, and that was the moment that convinced me Ferrell has the potential to be more than just a loud-mouthed instigator. The rest of the cast are well-rounded and only contribute to the film, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Emma Thompson deserving of extra praise.
The film also deserves to be commended for its simplicity and self-awareness. The plot being what it is, the film could’ve devolved into a philosophical, silly, and/or spiritual mess, but instead the movie focuses on the practical matter of trying to prevent one’s narrative death (strange as that description may be). As a result the movie is easy to follow along with and never feels presumptuous or pretentious. This natural approach to the film lends authenticity and genuineness to the work, which only helps the delivery of its messages and morals. It is often the case that only “artsy” movies try to do this, but Stranger Than Fiction certainly proves that you can say something meaningful and be down-to-earth at the same time.
There are plot holes, and the ride proved bumpy during the final third of the film.
My biggest gripe is the logical aspect. One of the extended tensions of the film is whether or not Harold meets the author of his life, Karen Eiffel, and near the end, when he finally does, the encounter proves anticlimatic and disappointing. While Karen does show the sensible reaction to finding out one of her characters is actually real, nothing satisfying comes out of it. It only serves as the basis for the plot’s conclusion, in Karen’s decision to keep Harold alive out of humanity, but this is poor foreshadowing. All we know of Karen throughout the entirety of the film is that she has writer’s block and her number one priority is to finish her story. We are given nothing else about her character, hence why her choice at the end feels arbitrary and forced.
There are other reasons the ending isn’t satisfying. Harold puts much effort into trying to solve the problem of his impending death, but all his efforts prove to be for naught. When a character’s actions throughout the story amounts to nothing, it really is a kick in the ass for your audience. Sure, we’re probably meant to understand that this whole adventure has made Harold more appreciative of life and has taken him out of his little bubble, but that type of story has been done a million times already with better premises, and Stranger Than Fiction is, for the most part, about a guy trying to stop his death and get the voice in his head to stop. Because it deviates from this central premise, the ending is slipshod and hasty, and ends up feeling empty.
Watch it if you’re like comedy-dramas. It’s a quiet little movie with a simple and charming plot. Just about every cast member plays their part superbly, most notably Ferrell in the lead role. It doesn’t have bust-your-gut comedy nor will it make you cry until you use up an entire tissue box, but it nonetheless succeeds as both a funny and dramatic film.
This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading.