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So I just got back from seeing Stranger Than Fiction, a film I was so on the fence about that I didn't even really feel like going tonight but I figured why not. I do have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I can't say that I absolutely loved it but I felt that it was alot better than I thought it was going to be.
The story is simple enough a man, Harold Crick (Farrell), is shaken up from his hum drum life when a mysterious narrator begins to describe in detail everything Harold is doing, thinking, and saying. The narrator then throws a wrench in Harold's life by explaining that Harold Crick is going to die. The narrator turns out to be Kay Eiffel (Thompson), a writer who is having trouble killing off her character which so happens to be Farrel. Throughout this tale Crick falls in love with Ana Pascal (Gyllenhaal), a baker who Harold was going to audit. During this time Crick is trying to peice together the reason who is the narrator and why she wants him dead. He then goes to a literary professor (Hoffman) for help.
Stranger than Fiction plays like a romantic comedy in the Twilight Zone. Please don't let the phrase "romantic comedy" turn you away as it is done with alot more reverence and is smarter than your average Nora Ephron schlock fest. The film allows time for the relationship between Ferrell and Gyllenhaal grow naturally. From the awkward first meeting to the first time Farrell tells Gyllenhaal how he feels just plays very naturally.
Which brings me to Ferrell's growth as a character and as an actor. Crick learns to live his life and grows from a very solitary person to a person who realized he took his life for granted. Ferrell also grew as an actor. He was very restrained in this role and it isn't your typical Will Ferrell preformance. Ferrell can turn into Jim Carrey as this film, like the Truman SHow, proves that he has talent as a dramatic actor. My only beef was that for the first 30 minutes of the film you were bored with Crick. He was likeable but he was too rigid. I guess that was the point but it still felt like too much.
As for the rest of the preformances Dustin Hoffman was my favorite. He felt very comfortable in this role and his comic timing was very spot on. Emma Thompson was great in her role as well. She made her character alive complete with odd movements and quirks. She was always doing something even when she wasn't talking. It was a very fun preformance to watch. Tony Hale and Queen Latifah were wasted in grossly generic roles. Their characters could have been played by anybody and you wouldn't know the difference. It is a shame because I expected more from both, especially Hale who proved his comedic acting in Arrested Devolpment.
There were a few things about the film that kind of bothered me. First of all the pacing was way off. There were moments that seemed to drag. The film was just shy of two hours and it felt like three. That's not really a good thing. I would have liked a little more explanation as to why Crick. Why was he chosen? Was he really real or a figment of her imagination? I also felt there was an overuse of visual effects. At points it worked with the storytelling at others it felt tacked on like it was just there to be cool.
So while not a perfect film it is a feel good film. It is one that will leave a smile on your face as you leave the theater. It is a real sweet film with outstanding preformances and an interesting story. It just doesn't feel like a film that you need to see in the theater.
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