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.