Most professionals use their blackberries & Franklin Planners for setting up appointments & using phrases like 'Call to action', 'Turn-key' and 'Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater'. I use mine to help plot out the various hours of programming I simply cannot miss during the Fall. As a true movie, TV & football-lover, this time of year typically has me on sensory over-load. There's Must-See shows, college football on Saturdays & my personal favorite, the 'for your consideration' Oscar-bait movies premiering by the boatload each Friday.
But on the whole, the last few months have been, well, ehh.
We're clearly coming off of a fairly lackluster movie-viewing summer (save perhaps 'The Last Kiss' which was solid & 'Little Miss Sunshine' which I loved). Given this fact, I had such high hopes for the latest offerings from Scorsese, Coppola, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and of course, the chosen one, Mr.Ali G himself. While Scorsese's 'The Departed' was entertaining enough & Inarritu's 'Babel' offered some strong performances...When the credits rolled, it seemed to me that the hype for each film far outshined the film itself (cough-cough 'Borat' cough-cough).
This is why 'Stranger Than Fiction' was such an amazingly pleasant surprise. It has 'It'. That unidentifiable something that stays with you long after you walk out of the theater. The kind of movie you want everyone around you to see so that you can talk about the characters and relive the dialog. Kudos to Zach Helm who took what easily could have been an idea too convoluted to make sense of and turned it into a beautiful tragic comedy.
Marc Forester (of 'Monster's Ball' and 'Finding Neverland' fame) is at the helm of this unique little gem that centers around a prolific yet death-obsessed author, Kay Eiffel (the brilliant, sardonic Emma Thompson) who is suffering from a case of writer's block. Kay just can't figure out how to kill the main character in her latest novel, a horribly boring man by the name of Harold Crick. 'Little does she know' (a phrase that takes on a whole new meeting for me after seeing this film), Mr. Crick (impressively played by Will Ferrell) is a real live man.
One fateful morning while counting the number of brush strokes required to successfully brush his teeth, Harold begins to hear her voice narrating his every monotonous move. It becomes clear that he is a character in a story - more specifically - the story of his life. And according to the voice, it's a story that will coming to an end in the very near future.
In an attempt to make sense of it all, he seeks out literary expert, Jules Hilbert (played to perfection by Dustin Hoffman) who sets out to help him determine the identity of the author/voice of his story as well as what kind of genre his story/life falls under (comedy versus tragedy). The duo quickly determine that Harold is headed down a rather tragic path. In an attempt to avoid his imminent death and take back control of his life, Harold decides to make some long overdue changes, the most significant of which revolves around working up the nerve to pursue his crush (played by the quirky beauty, Maggie Gyllenhaal).
The story gains momentum as Harold is forced to race against the voice in his head and save himself from the impending doom that awaits him. We watch has he takes control of his life and hope that it won't be too late.
Ferrell, best known for his out-of-control 'Anchorman', streaking-SNL cheerleader, has accomplished with this film what Jim Carrey tried so very hard to do with 'The Truman Show'. He's nailed a delicate, subtle, incredibly moving performance that has allowed him to flex his acting muscles in a way I, personally, never thought possible. Now here's the Oscar-bait I was hoping for.
See this movie and it might just renew your faith in the '06 movie season.