Indeed, it was strange to have picked this movie after I had written a review on books that make great characters in films. Stranger than fiction is about a book character that is so alive and powerful that escapes the pages of its unfinished book and starts living in a film. It is undoubtedly odder than any fantasy, romance and comedy book altogether.
Harold Crick, an IRS agent, with a boring, calculated, lonely, meticulous existence, starts hearing a feminine voice narrating his every move and thought. He first visits a shrink, then a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) who tries to identify the female writer threatening to kill him. He goes through the five stages of grief -denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance- while struggling to prevent his own death. Meanwhile, his anthropomorphic watch breaks the routine and Harold falls for Miss Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an intriguing baker he's auditing. Beyond the fictional boundaries of Harold Crick's life, author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is suffering from writer's block, not knowing how to kill her main character. Penny Escher (Queen Latifah) is the assistant sent by the publishers to help Karen overcome her situation. Together, they research into the best way to kill Harold, who is desperately looking for the writer, in an attempt to change the novel' s ending.
I liked the film in which the watch took the final blow and saved the owner's life. It was intelligent but not overwhelming, original, yet reminiscent of Spike Jonze's Adaptation or Fair Game. Will Ferrell turned out to be a promising dramatic performer, who felt at ease with himself and familiar with the role. Maggie Gyllenhaal was as feminine as ever, an unexpected match to Will Ferrell's clumsiness; love and baking go together in a tender, positive touch. Dustin Hoffman is an actor of many talents, including the art of drinking coffee and elegantly eating while analysing Harold's life. The director's main gift, apart from creating an unexpectedly intelligent story, is to softly take you into the lives of ordinary, yet sweet people and make you a part of the characters' transformation as they undergo some dramatic changes.
Life itself is greater and stranger than fiction in the way it catches you unawares; and even though neither books nor movies are a match to real life, they sometimes help you appreciate the nuances that make your existence adventurous and mysterious. Whether we find inspiration in the books we read, the movies we watch, the journeys we take or the people we love, we get to shape our lives as comedies or tragedies.
I forgot to ask you one meaningful question: how would like to leave this world- gracefully, as a book character, forever alive in the minds of readers or quietly, having written and played in your own story?