Stranger Than Fiction

Kev Eddy 22/01/2007

Rating: 3/5

I was determined to dislike this film. The trailer had suggested a sub-Kaufman plot featuring screwball comedian Will Ferrell doing what he does - which is, to be fair, hilarious, but not for nigh-on two hours in a film.

Well, how wrong could I be? Very, it appears. This is actually a very sweet, very touching, charming little film. Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS agent whose life suddenly takes a turn for the bizarre when it starts to become narrated by a disembodied voice. That only he can hear, and which plans to kill him. Hilarity and bittersweet pathos ensues as Crick attempts to discover what's happening to him and, more importantly, how to avert his impending doom.

It's the supporting actors which really make this film. Emma Thompson is back on form as Kay Eiffel, the author scripting Crick's demise, who makes a strangely fitting double act with Queen Latifah. Dustin Hoffman's turn as a literature professor examining the narrative devices in Crick's story to work out whether he's in a tragedy or a comedy simply confirms his newest incarnation as a remarkably diverse supporting actor, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is, quite simply, the most adorable punk baker in the world. Seriously. The scene where she describes a cornucopia of cakes and sweetmeats to the terminally-repressed Crick is one of the most sensuous monologues I've ever experienced.

It's Ferrell, though, who's the real revelation. Like Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine..., he reins back the zany elements of his humour and imbues Crick with a real sense of pathos. By the end of the film, you really find yourself caring deeply about this man and his newfound zest for life - which makes the ending surprisingly poignant.

It's not the most groundbreaking film ever, and Charlie Kaufman does do the metatextual comedy/drama with more class and creativity. But, with his next effort (the catchily-titled Synecdoche, New York) not due until later this year, Stranger than Fiction fills the gap nicely for now.