Dir: Marc Forster. US. 2006.118mins.
A highly original script by newcomerZach Helm, some superlative performances and the deft guiding hand of directorMarc Forster, trying his hand at comedy for the first time, make Stranger Than Fiction the season's must-seefilm for discerning audiences. Financed and co-produced by Mandate Pictures,the film is having its world premiere at
Helm's script is of theCharlie Kaufman school of wild imagination and itbears no little resemblance to Kaufman's Adaptation,which took $22.5m in
Set in sunny present day
The following day, however,as he embarks on the same procedure as the day before, he too can suddenly hearthe woman's voice correctly predicting what he will do and, worst of all,announcing that his death is imminent.
The woman's voice is that ofKaren Eiffel (Thompson), a depressive novelist with writer's block strugglingto find an appropriate way to kill Crick whom she believes is just a characterin her latest book. Eiffel's publisher is putting pressure on her to finish thenovel which is past its deadline and has dispatched a pushy assistant (Queen Latifah) to help Eiffel finish Crick off.
Crick quickly discovers thatonly he can hear the voice and is distracted as he goes out to audit afree-spirited baker called Ana (Gyllenhaal),listening as the voice tells him how much attracted he is to her. Desperate toavoid his death, he sets about discovering who is narrating his life, going tothe local university to seek help from a literary theorist called Jules Hilibert (Hoffman) who suggests that he turn his story froma tragedy to a comedy and embark on a love story with Ana.
As he starts to enjoy hislife and taste love for the first time, Harold determines to thwart thenarrator and his quest for survival ultimately leads him to Eiffel (Thompson),who has just come up with the ideal way to kill him. Fortunately for Crick, shehas not yet typed up her thoughts, but when both Hilibertand Crick read her notes, they realise that Eiffel'sbook is a masterpiece and has to end with Crick's death. It is up to Eiffel todecide whether Crick's life is worth snuffing out for the sake of a great pieceof literature.
Leaving behind the intensedrama of Monster's Ball, Finding Neverlandand Stay, Forster applies a lightnessof touch and sweetly optimistic tone to the quirky material. His ensemble isnothing short of perfect: Ferrell is restrained and appealing as Crick, Gyllenhaal a delight as the spunky Ana and veteransThompson and Hoffman add both humour and soul to theproceedings. Thompson, in particular, brings a gravitas to the film's endingwhich brings tears to the eyes.
If the film is too light asouffle to win awards in best picture or director categories, its screenplayand performances - perhaps Ferrell and Thompson - could certainly qualify, andmany voters will appreciate how cleverly the film sustains its conceit frombeginning to end. Like the best souffles, the blend of ingredients here riseswell once cooked.
Three Strange Angels