Stranger Than Fiction
In looking for some of these recommendations, it's so good to know that there are those friends out there who know me all too well. I love the strange, unusual, and imaginative, especially if you can attach some sort of metaphor to it. 'Stranger Than Fiction' not only pulls this off, but it's another shining example of a movie that suggests an otherwise typecast actor certainly can come through, and allow us to care about his character.
Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS agent who lives his life by numbers, and has a real attachment to his wristwatch. When he is assigned to audit a baker who has been dodging her taxes, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he finds himself falling for her pretty quickly while she's not exactly returning the feeling. On the same day, Crick ends up hearing an unknown voice who seems to be narrating his life, and slowly driving him crazy - especially when the narrator states that he is going to die soon.
Though Harold is deemed as having schizophrenia, he knows there's something much stranger at work, as the voice isn't telling him what to do so much as narrate what he's doing. Soon, he finds himself talking to literary professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) who seems to want to help, and accepts what Harold is telling him about this weird voice.
It turns out, this voice is coming from a renowned author, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who hasn't published in quite some time. She is writing Crick's story as he's living it, but in looking for a way to kill him off (as she tends to do with her leads), she experiences severe writer's block and looks to Penny Escher (Queen Latifah) for assistance in finishing her book. The big question behind the film is "Does Harold have to die, as he's told he will, or can he do somehing to change his fate?"
Much of it does play out as a love story, but I found that the love story does end up taking a side seat to the more deeper meaning behind it all. The whole idea that someone else out there is writing your life as its unfolding is really out there, and at first glance, you don't really get how it works. However, as the film unfolds, I found myself seeing it as a big metaphor for having to face death. Quite simply, the author is God, and the character is the average person who, despite being in control of his actions, probably can't change his ultimate fate, altogether.
It immediately made me think of what it must be like to be diagnosed with something fatal, and have to face your last days leading up to your death, head-on, weather you like it or not. I have witnessed how incredibly hard this can be, and the film translates it really quite well. So I'm thankful to have gotten deeper meaning from it than just an interesting story about love. For me, it's really much more about mortality, and I think that's what really makes it work.
It's one of the more interesting titles that I've been introduced to, and I could see myself popping it on again pretty easily if the mood hits me just right. Based on Farrell's Golden Globe nominated performance alone, it's a good reminder that sometimes Hollywood has the power to look at a performer and say "you have potential, but you're too busy doing the same thing, over and over again". He also has a dramatic role in 'Everything Must Go', but this was probably the first time he really made me relate to and feel for one of his characters.
It's currently available on Netflix (Canada) for an easy watch, and it's actually lighter than I make it sound with all of the "death" subject matter. It's well worth a couple of hours of anyone's time, and I'm sad to say that I've been missing out on a great story for about 14 years now. I am, however, grateful for the recommendation, as this one was pretty well right up my alley. By all means, I'd love to hear any and all recommendations that are similar to this, if there are any, because I was altogether impressed, and it left me with a grateful outlook on life.
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