Skip to main content

Stranger Than Fiction

Saw Stranger Than Fiction last night and was amazed by how much I liked it. I am not a Will Ferrell fan, though I've liked most everything I've seen Emma Thompson in. It seemed an odd pairing and the previews looked too cute for words.

Too cute by half, since the previews make the film look like a straight comedy, which it is and isn't. It isn't in the sense of rolling on the laughing, but it is in the classical sense, and I leave it to you to figure out what I mean.

Also in the cast is Maggie Gyllenhaal, and she's casually delightful as always. And surprise, Queen Latifah is perfect in a minor but nonetheless key role. I should probably also mention Dustin Hoffman, but why? He's little more than "okay".

The plot is simple: Ferrell is an IRS agent who begins hearing Thompson's voice as it narrates his life, in all its dull, repetitive details. At first he thinks he's going crazy, but becomes panic stricken when the narration casually announces he will soon die. The twist is when we discover that Thompson is a well-known author suffering writer's block. The narration that Ferrell hears is her writing, and his death is necessary for the conclusion of her latest novel.

The previews make it look like this is just another over-the-top Ferrell comedy, but it isn't. He is visibly restrained, as an IRS agent should be. It's a somber and sobering performance because the Thompson's narration begins to make him examine his closed and hollow world. It also compels him into a relationship with Gyllenhaal.

This isn't a perfect film. While gently done for the most part, it is often far from subtle. And while we're told that the novel that Thompson is writing, the end of Ferrell's life, is possibly the finest work of her career, we get no hint as to why that it so. Hoffman just declares it and we move on. Little disappointments like this are speckled throughout the film.

Nonetheless, is a touching little film. I'm amazed at how good Ferrell can be when he's not just running about and shouting. Thompson's performance of a neurotic, withdrawn writer is perfect. And Gyllenhaal's free spirt, while a bit of a stereotype, is still nicely rendered. It all comes together with a touching conclusion that says a great deal about living and writing, that both are subject to revision and rewrites, and there's little or nothing that we should take for granted.

All in all, a good film with a hint that it could have been great.


Popular posts from this blog

Not the Hero We Deserve, But the Hero We Need

The Dark Knight is the best film I’ve seen in years. Not just the best “superhero” film, but the best film of any type. It’s not perfect, not quite a masterpiece, but it’s flaws are, to me, tiny and overwhelmed by the time the film ends. While relatively bloodless, it is consistently brutal, not just in what it depicts but in the themes that drive it. TDK is a film for adults, please leave the kids at home.Let’s deal with those “flaws” first, the largest being the character Rachel Dawes. In Batman Begins, I blamed Katie Holmes. Her acting was weak, to say the least, which is regrettable in that who she is and what she says and does are important to the film. Critics agreed and either for that or other reasons, Katie was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is a better actress. Yet here she’s weak, real weak. Maybe it’s the character, not the actress, which is frustrating because Rachel is a pivotal character. The film, at almost two and a half hours, might be a shade long. Having said t…

About that "Steven Spielberg ending" comment

All right, when I wrote about the film V for Vendetta, I said the "happy ending" was an ending Steven Spielberg would have been proud of. Is there someone out there who doesn't get it? I can think of precisely one film that Spielberg didn't slap some sort of "and they all lived happily ever after" ending onto, and that was Munich (which sucked in its own right and for other reasons).Most of his films righteously have happy endings. Kill the shark, absolutely. Hero wins the day, without a doubt. Some poor schmuck prevails over homicidal big rig, yea!But as I recall, his first theatrical film didn't have all that happy an ending. Indeed, I think the protaganist gets his ass shot off and dies. Which was proper, since that was based on a real story and that's really what happened.And does Close Encounters of the Third Kind really have a "happy" ending? Our hero goes off with the aliens, and the music swells to happiness, but he's just aban…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I went and saw The Last Jedi shortly after it came out and at first I didn't really feel like writing a thing about it. Why? Because the film just left me apathetic; I just didn't care. But I've been seeing arguments and counter-arguments fly back and forth, especially the aggregate professional critic (very high) versus the aggregate viewer (pretty low) scores. So, what the heck, here's my two cents' worth. And because I want to work myself up to a proper, full venting, there will be spoilers a-plenty.

We join the action shortly after the events of The Force Awakens. The Resistance (with no clear idea of what they're actually resisting) is fleeing from the relentless pursuit of The First Order (with no clear idea of what their order actually is). Death is closing in on our less-than-plucky heroes. Much running ensues.

And that's it, the entire plot in a nutshell. Yes, Rey (Daisy Ridley) goes off to receive training from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). But it…