November 18, 2006

Absolutely *loved* Stranger Than Fiction

I saw Stranger Than Fiction last night and absolutely loved it. It’s been a long time since I saw a film where I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I found the script and the meta-premise extremely clever, loved the literary turns and the intelligent plotline.

If you’ve seen the previews, you know that the film involves the (flawlessly cast) Will Ferrell as a colorless IRS agent Harold Crick, who lives a precisely organized life that one day changes when he begins to hear a woman’s voice narrating his life. He has become the main character in a new novel being written, in an odd intersection of life and fiction, and learns that in the book his “character” is to be killed off. Ah, gravitas.

This extremely clever premise plays itself out in the style of Charlie Kaufman movies like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — it takes advantage of the uniquely surreal world that movies inhabit to have a little fun with the medium.

It’s not just a silly comedy of a film, but instead engagingly raises some fascinating existential questions about the meaning of life, the greater good, the process of creating something wonderful, and living your life in the face of a possible impending doom. I appreciated the overexaggeration of the one-dimensionality of the characters, from Ferrell’s all-beige, sterile apartment of precise teeth-brushing and no fun, to the overstated colorful quirkiness of his female foil (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in her tattooed artistic world (which included her bakery with posters for Rogue Wave and The 22-20s stapled to the wall, which is apparently what anarchist bakers listen to).

Speaking of the music, there was a suitably punchy soundtrack which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is heavy on the Spoon, with Britt Daniels and Co. contributing several songs, as well as some new materials and scoring from Daniels in conjunction with Brian Reitzell (Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette). Here’s what we loved about it:

The Book I Write (new version) – Spoon
(plays over the closing credits)
(This just begs me to listen to “Everyday I Write The Book.” Or maybe to just watch Wedding Singer again.)

That’s Entertainment (demo version) – The Jam
(bus scene with Will Ferrell reading the manuscript of his life and potential death, perfect musical accompaniment)

Death or Glory – The Clash
(playing in the background after Crick’s first encounter with the artsy baker Ana, while he yells at the invisible narrator)

Going Missing – Maximo Park
(spot-on lyrics for Ferrell’s character, sung in that appealing British lilt)

And more goodness awaits in the official soundtrack CD. And go see the movie, it was the best I’ve seen in a long time, and it induced me to a fervent profession of love during the closing credits for the first-time writer Zach Helm. Someone buy that man a drink.

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  • I also saw that film last night and I adored it.

    Really fantastic dramedy…(comedy and drama put together of course).

    Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson come across so witty and classy…really refreshing characters, very life-like, y’know?

    And as for Will Ferrell…I think this is gonna be his big role where he becomes known for more than just goofy slap-stick improvised comedy. I liken it to Adam Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love role…except I think Ferrell was better.

    That might just be because the film is so vivid in my mind.

    Good work miss. The soundtrack was awesome too- all that Spoon kept my toes tapping for sure.

    Joe — November 18, 2006 @ 4:56 pm

  • GREAT review Heather sounds like a must see.

    p.s. while very good,that mountain goats song is not a cover of the wreckless eric song

    -tom — November 18, 2006 @ 6:38 pm

  • tom, that’ll teach me to not listen to my inner perfectionist and post something in a haste before running out the door.

    heather — November 18, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

  • What happened to that wonderful Mountain Goats song that is not a cover of a wreckless eric song?

    cookies from elastic — November 18, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

  • this slapstick – to – character acting crossover reminds me of Steve Martin’s transition in “Shopgirl” LOVE IT!!

    abbfab — November 18, 2006 @ 10:22 pm

  • The montage where Ferrell is getting his act together and not riding the bus? Right across the street — and also just down the block — from my pad!

    And did someone mention Wreckless Eric?

    Karl — November 18, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

  • I loved it as well! I came bopping out of the theater happily, pronoucing, “Will Ferrel CAN act!”

    Anonymous — November 18, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

  • I was surprised by just how much I liked Stranger than Fiction .. it was that rare movie that’s just as smart as it thinks it is .. I never thought I’d like a movie that had Will Ferrell in virtually every frame, but I just loved how he was able to tone it down without losing any of his comic timing

    Reel Fanatic — November 19, 2006 @ 6:07 am

  • Hey, Heather, great post.

    My daughter wanted to see “Happy Feet” today and the Patriots were well ahead of the Packers, so I actually simulated an attentive father and took her to the movies.

    But while we waited in line (at the horribly understaffed AMC theater in Chestnut Hill, MA), she decided she didn’t want to see a kiddie movie and suggested “Stranger Than Fiction”.

    For reasons discussed below, I knew that contrary to the trailers it was NOT a comedy and warned her of that, but she still wanted to see it.

    As a movie it was a little slow at the start, but it was great. Will Ferrell was perfect for the role. Nobody could have done it better.

    Since this is a music blog let me add that it used music including the instrumental “soundtracky” stuff better than most any (non-Scorsese) movie).

    OK, now, why I knew about the movie being serious (contrary to the ads): Last weekend I stumbled upon a “living room” show by Wreckless Eric and his (sensational) girlfriend Amy Rigby put on by some very cool folks in Somerville, MA. A couple attending said they were there only because of seeing “Stranger Than Fiction” and the very moving use of a Wreckless Eric song in it.

    Well, too long a comment, but I love your site and this movie is recommended.

    Bruce K.

    Anonymous — November 19, 2006 @ 5:40 pm

  • Confirming that I am a self-centered dip, I should add that my daughter (12 years old) also found the movie VERY moving and interesting. Just the kind of mind-stimulating, but not inapppropriate art that a sensitive 12 year old should see.

    Of course it helps to have the right kind of 12 year old, which luckily I do.

    Bruce K.

    Anonymous — November 19, 2006 @ 5:42 pm

  • Heather,

    Great movie indeed! And some of the music was fantastic – especially the intelligent use of “That’s Entertainment” on the bus/reading scene (which worked on many levels). I also LOVED the “Whole Wide World” song, and will be buying it shortly, for sure.

    I knew Ferrell could act – as one of the few who has actually seen “Winter Passing” (which also has a GREAT scene with him singing in it) and “Melinda and Melinda”, but he really outdid himself here.


    Chad — November 20, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

  • Saw it tonight. Liked it a whole, whole lot.


    Rich — November 20, 2006 @ 10:03 pm

  • I wasn’t all that fussed about this film until this post. Thanks a lot! Wonder when it comes out in Australia.

    Sean — November 21, 2006 @ 3:13 am

  • Wasn’t planning on seeing the movie, but your excitement may change that.

    Bushwick is Beautiful — November 21, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

  • This movie has taken alot of guff, mostly i think because it’s not “Talledega Nights.”

    Just saw it last night, and thought it was really, really good. Touching and sweet… and sure, not completely airtight from a plot perspective, but that’s easy to overlook.

    Never thought maggie gyllenthal was all that, but now, of course, i am in love with her. like everybody else.

    and also, like everybody else, i ran out and tracked down that “whole wide world” song cause yeah, it rocks, and the scene it’s in is just incredibly perfect and romantic. THAT’S how you kiss, ya know? best screen kiss i’ve seen all year.

    Now i have to 1) learn to play that song and 2) find a girl to sing it to. score!

    muskratboy — August 11, 2007 @ 12:21 pm

  • I completely agree. This was one of the best movies I’ve seen in quite a while.

    Allen — October 12, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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