Monday, June 18, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

I usually like Dustan Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Queen Latifah has been good in all the movies of hers I’ve watched. I’m not a big Will Ferrell fan, but this movie was one of the good ones.

I liked it so much that I naturally questioned my taste and went over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what they had to say about it. STF got 6.9 out of 10. The critics’ consensus quote was a little mean-spirited, I thought:
A fun, whimsical tale about an office drone trying to save his life from his narrator. The cast obviously is having a blast with the script, but Stranger Than Fiction's tidy lessons make this metaphysical movie feel like Charlie Kaufman-lite.”

Kaufman, you may know or remember is the writer of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and others.

"Tidy lessons" "Kaufman-lite"--these are deliberately pejorative. The consensus statement is fair to the overall comment from critics if they were mashed together. Some liked the whimsical tale, the cast having fun with the script and roles; some people felt annoyed with the movie's accessiblity. Because it wasn't dark, difficult, nor ultimately damaged, they devalued it.

Well, them and the horse they rode in on!

While I couldn't sit still in the last third of the movie just before the ending (I stood up and watched shifting from foot to foot. It was the decongestant, I think. Or maybe I was just edgy. But you can be as crazy as you want if no one's there--no matter what the voices are saying to the contrary), I thought it was a good ending. Perhaps not a great ending, but very, very good. I'll be watching this film again.

Some of my favorite things:

Emma Thompson is daring and perfect!! Ms Thompson is a pretty, perhaps even beautiful woman, but she's playing an frazzled author with writer's block, and her make up looks like splotchy no-make up. I love her twitches, her habits, and her red nose. She rocks! She dares to be scrungy and not sweet scrungy like a comic hobo or something. Her character is unattractive and makes you want to look away.

Dustin Hoffman is funny and eccentric (dare one say, as usual?). He plays literature professor Jules Hilbert who takes Harold Crick (Ferrell's character) seriously enough to try and figure out what kind of story he's being written into, and to see if he can discover who the author might actually be so that Crick can do something about it. And for Hoffman's character, literature is more important (if not sweeter) than life. After all the work Hoffman has done, though it's hard not to see some schtick from his other characters show up. The professor's detailed perfectionism towards literature seems heavily borrowed from Hoffman's Michael Dorsey from Tootsie.

Queen Latifah as the publisher's author assistant who is trying to get Karen Eiffel to finish her book has just the right amount of no-nonsense, humor, and caring. Because the character, Penny Escher, is so perfect in a serving kind of way, I wonder if some people or critics would find the character objectionable as a movie/literary descendant of the mammy character Hattie McDaniel used to play. In any case, I liked the character, and I liked Queen Latifah.

In the spirit of overthinking, what about those character names!!!??

Harold Crick
Karen Eiffel
Ana Pascal
Penny Escher
Jules Hilbert (I didn't know, but I googled Hilbert, and there was a famous mathematician named David Hilbert who came up with some important concepts and theorems that have to do with finiteness and multidimensional space--which are quite beyond my capacity at this time.)

Stranger than Fiction has the straightforward emotional story of a guy trying to sort out his life and make it more meaningful than drudgery, it has a "chick-flickesque" love story, and it has tricksy details for those who want to overthink darkly. I think the critics who thought it was too simple didn't get the tricksy things. Myself, I'd give it an 8.9 out of 10!!


pixie girl said...

I adored Stranger than Fiction! Feel free to haiku on my blog anytime - there's one I read regularly, and most of my comments there are in haiku :)!

cp said...

Hey you,

I really liked that movie too! Though how about a watch being a supporting character (I have a LOT of watches).

I hadn't noticed the names. I usually don't analyze movies to much just let the experience wash over me.

I forgot about Dustin Hoffman's character, does that mean it was a forgettable performance or a forgettable role?

My favorite part was when Harold was singing Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" which was one of my favorite songs from back in my wild youth.