Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction. A-

'Stranger Than Fiction' is a movie that has a lot going in its favor, at least as far as the story goes. The only questions whether it can make the most of what it already has. Luckily, the answer is yes. You wouldn't expect a movie about a man whose life is narrated by a mysterious voice that he can hear to come up with something truly satisfying by the end, and in truth it doesn't quite do it. But if builds up enough power during the middle segments that any flaws in the ending can easily be forgiven. Plus, its debatable as to whether the resolution is a hit or a miss, varying from viewer to viewer. In one of his most original and heartwarming (forgive the adjective) performances, Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a lugubrious IRS agent who one day hears a voice narrating his every action. It's as if his life is a book. When Harold finds out that he might be killed off by the narrater, he seeks the help of a literary professor, Jules Hilbert, played by Dustin Hoffman. The question is this: is Harold in a tragedy or a comedy? And that's it, at least in this take of the film. I'm still trying to decide how much I liked the ending. It's obviously trying to be philosophical, but its reasoning didn't quite feel analytical enough. Then again, it's not exactly supposed to, is it? I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed Ferrell's performance. We're so used to his crude, salacious behavior that we forget that he knows how to put on a decently dramatic performance. It's hard to tell how unhappy Crick is with his life. It seems that he's so focused and almost robotic in his nature that he hardly realizes the miserable state he's in. The rest of the cast, especially Hoffman, is exceptional as well. The director is Marc Forster, who has proved he has the competence to make solid movies with such titles as 'Monsters Ball' and 'Finding Neverland.' Here, he shows that he also has the ability to make those weird and wonderful little dramdies that pull the viewer in and make it very hard to let go. (Note-keep an eye out for the two guys from the sonic commercials. They appear twice on my count)

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