Friday, May 18, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

Being a lover of books and movies, what could be better than a movie about a guy who thinks his life is being narrated by an author?

For me, not much. I loved this movie. Funny and poignant without being sappy, Stranger than Fiction is the best non-Action Adventure movie I've seen in ages. Will Farrel is resplendant and restrained as Harold Crick, an IRS auditor stuck so deep in a rut he can't even see that he's in it anymore. While brushing his teeth one morning a narrator starts describing his life. But only in his own head. No one else can hear her.

Concerned co-workers tell the company shrink, who wants to help... oh my God it's Tom Hulce! When did he get so old? And fat? I love Tom Hulce! You can see a bit of the old Parenthood Larry grin hiding under the gray hair and the extra chin.

And how did I not know the Queen Latifa was in this movie?

Then the narrator tells us, and him, that Rick is approaching an immenent demise.

Understandably upset, Rick seeks out a therapist (Linda Hunt!), who sends him to a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman!), where they try to decide: is Rick in a tragedy, or a comedy?

So Rick falls in love, takes up the guitar, learns to love cookies, and finally meets his narrator.

And begs not to be killed.

Describing the movie like that makes me wonder. How stupid could it be? But there's something about Rick as he goes about his everyday existence, knowing his demise is imminent. How he opens up, and changes just a little. It doesn't take much, and Rick is nearly a regular guy. I think it's the cookies that start it all.

This movie is small and thoughtful and quiet and intelligent, something movies rarely are these days. It walks a line that spans fantasy and romance and comedy, and is modern enough to include neat little graphics that pop up randomly, showing has the way Harold compulsivly counts, compares spatial relationships, and measures. The hand soap in the bathroom is not merely partially full, it is 93% full. That is Harold.

I started to think the ending was trite, a bit too easy. But it isn't the movie's compromise that produces it, it is the characters. And that I liked.

I can't recommend this enough. Watch it closely, in a place where you can really listen. This is one for after the kids are in bed. Not because it's racy (not even close), but because you'll want to be sure and catch every word.

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