Director Marc Forster has a really diverse filmography, with Monster's Ball, the touching Finding Neverland, and the science fiction thriller Stay, all under his belt. The trend continues with Stranger Than Fiction, a film which is quite difficult to categorize, as it's really a mixed bag, bringing memories of Adaptation (2002), along similar lines where fiction crosses into reality.
Will Farrell is Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who lives live by the clock. Everything is precise, and he has this fixation with order. Some might term it obsessive compulsive, but that's the way this closet mathematician lives, doing seemingly mundane things like counting the number of brushstrokes when he brushes his teeth. His ordered life goes awry when he happens to start hearing a female voice narrating his life as it happens, and that is bizarre enough to freak out anyone since an ultimatum was issued.
I appreciate the parts where fiction and (screen) reality collide in some weird twists of fate, and contemplate moments where reminders about living life to the fullest, the way you want it to be, get drummed up in the narrative. Taking it to the extreme, it's about the power some of us wields over others, be it employer-employee, or master-slave, or relationships of such. Given that you have the ability to cause hurt, will you continue to go with the decision on the basis of the greater good, or will you seek out a win-win situation, or in less selfish cases, allowing yourself to back down on the negotiations? The closest I can think of when watching Stranger Than Fiction, in the event of the course of work we remove someone from a position, will you be emotionally detached and end your concern at that, or ponder what will happen to people around the victim?
Those expecting a comedy by virtue of it being a Will Farrell movie, will be severely disappointed. Similar to Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum, Stranger Than Fiction does contain funny moments, but these are not intentionally funny. It's filled with dark humour along the veins of fellow comedian Jim Carrey's Truman Show, with another being having supreme control over the life of the protagonist. But Will Farrell doesn't disappoint in his dramatic ability to carry the film through as the bewildered, desperate man, and that is essentially what made this movie, which plodded along at times, bearable.
Assisted by a strong supporting cast, it's perhaps one of the strongest this year end. It's been sometime since we last saw most of them. The script allowed Dustin Hoffman to make some references to The Graduate, and it's indeed since Meet The Fockers was he seen on the silver screen. Emma Thompson too, given the last outing she had was under heavy disguise and makeup in Nanny McPhee. Here, she's sans makeup most of the time, as the writer Kay Eiffel, suffering from a bad mental block. Queen Latifah didn't have much to do, while you'll probably be distracted by Maggie Gyllenhaal's huge arm tattoo, as she's the token eye candy in the movie.
Stranger Than Fiction contains nifty special effects but it's something already seen before. The soundtrack is nice, but nothing memorable. That pretty sums up my sentiments of the movie. It's something, but yet something else at the same time, never being bold enough to stick to what would probably work better, allowing itself to surrender its potentially brilliant strength for a typical finale.