Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction : a review

The power of words is certainly underestimated by the childish ditty we were taught: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I've never broken a bone, or been struck by a stick or stone (that I can remember) but there are many words that resonate with at least a small amount of rancor, if not low-lying disappointment, inside my psyche.

Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson, already a strange pairing, exist in a fantasy/horror scenario where a writer's actual words narrate and eventually become real life. Ferrell 's IRS auditor character, Harold Crick, wakes up  in a verbal voodoo-like state created by the words of Thompson's somewhat unstable writer character Karen Eiffel.

As the story progresses, it seems inevitable that Crick will be killed off by Eiffel's story. After shrugging off his shrink's diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Harold turns to literary critic Jules Hilbert-heavy on cynicism, short on compassion-played by Dustin Hoffman, who concedes it inevitable and somehow fitting for the literary world that Harold should die, as he considers Eiffel's almost completed manuscript the masterpiece of the decade.

Were it not for the down to earth warmth of Queen Latifah's character as Eiffel's writer's assistent, and free-spirited bohemian baker Maggie Gyhyllenhall, Crick's love interest, the story would wither on the vine.  The detached manner in which Crick lives his life gives little room for sympathy, until he begins to take Hoffman's advice in light of his imminent death,  to "live the life you want to live".

That is perhaps the thesis of the movie, the takeaway phrase. 

What are we all waiting for anyway? Our death, while perhaps not imminent, is inevitable. Are we living the life we really want to live? When will we begin?

The truth of our lives is, after all, usually stranger and far more absorbing than fiction.

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