Whilst Zach Helm’s screenplay still isn’t at the level of say, Kaufman – who gave us such brilliant brainteasers as “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich” – for a first time screenplay, it’s still rather superb
Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Tony Hale, Kristin Chenoweth,
Will Ferrell’s life would be a paperback if it were written now. After the world gets a peek at him in “Stranger than Fiction” though, he may be bumped up to first edition hardcover status. By doing the one film his agents probably begged him not to do, Ferrell’s career just got a lot more interesting.
Fact: Will Ferrell isn’t a one-trick pony; he just hasn’t been given the opportunity to prove it to anyone.
“Fiction”: It’s strange, but probably the best thing Ferrell could’ve done for his career at this point in time. I mean, how many times can we watch Frank the Tank run bare butt down a busy city street?
This time a decade ago – or near enough to – fellow comic Jim Carrey, was attempting to do the same: show audiences he’s more than funny faces and pants wetting pranks. It didn’t really work out for Carrey, though critics loved him in “The Majestic” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, audiences didn’t, they wanted plastic-man back.
And I can tell you now, as great as he is in it, and power to him for doing it, Ferrell will be following suit. His stay in sans-ha,ha laugh is a brief one. He’ll be back onto the comedy highway before the year’s out. Once you get locked into a certain type of role or character in this business – just ask Stallone, or even Bill Shatner – it’s hard to get people to see with anything other than the original mask you wore.
Ferrell’s foray into ‘dramedy’ – though granted, this film’s a lot lighter than some of the heavier fare that Carrey dove into – is a Charlie Kaufman-esque too-smart-for-its-own-good effort about a man who discovers he’s actually the character in a book that’s still being written.
He plays Harold Crick, the very-real guy in a very-real book in progress. Little does author Karen “Kay” Eiffel (Thompson) know that Harold Crick is unaccountably alive and well in the real world and suddenly aware of her worlds. Fiction and reality rear-end when the disorientated and amusingly unwilling Harold hears what she has in mind and realizes he must find a way to change her (and his) ending.
Whilst Zach Helm’s screenplay still isn’t at the level of say, Kaufman – who gave us such brilliant brainteasers as “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich” – for a first time screenplay, it’s still rather superb. It is deliciously creative, and seems determined to be anything other than a normal movie. It succeeds too, with the film being a rather eccentric beast – one with real teeth.
Thanks to Ferrell’s wonderful performance – as well as heavily worked co-star, Maggie Gyllenhaal, playing the unlikely love interest; didn’t go for Ms Thompson as much here, she just didn’t seem to have much to do – it’s also an enjoyable movie. You won’t laugh your ass off, you won’t cry your mascara away, and nor will you be on the edge of your seat for the film’s duration… but you’ll still be engrossed, engrossed in the character of Harold.
Points for bravery, Ferrell.
DVD extras include a bunch of featurettes – all tackling various subjects; interviews and some deleted scenes. Not a bad offering.
Reviewer : Clint Morris