Stranger Than Fiction is certainly a strange movie, and is about as close to a book as a movie can get considering the fact that the whole movie is narrated in the exact same way that a book is (I definitely understand why it was picked for this class). It is about an IRS auditor named Harold Crick (played by Will Ferrell) who has OCD. He pays extremely close attention to his watch, making sure that he does everything at the exact same time for the exact same amount of time each day. One day, he begins to hear a faceless narrator narrating his entire life which begins to drive him crazy. Also, at the same time, his watch begins to malfunction, and when he asks a stranger for the time, the narrator mentions that that act would result in his “imminent death.” In searching for answers as to who this narrator is and about his death, he meets Jules Hilbert, a literary professor. Jules tells him to figure out whether his “story” that the narrator is narrating is a tragedy or comedy, to which he decides it is a tragedy based off of his interactions with a baker, Ana Pascal, who he is both auditing and attracted to. Eventually, he finds his author, Karen Eiffel, who he learns has drafted his death already. Afraid to read the draft, Harold gives it to Jules to read, who proclaims that it is a masterpiece and says that he must let the ending persist, claiming that death is inevitable. At the end, Eiffel decides not to kill Harold, and instead has his watch destroyed, which was basically its own character throughout the movie.
First of all, Will Ferrell was a strange pick for the lead of this movie. I’m used to seeing him in movies like Stepbrothers, Elf, and Anchorman, so when I saw him in Stranger Than Fiction, I wasn’t particularly pleased. Seeing him as a sad, lonely, and frankly not very funny character was a bit of a bummer to me personally, which kind of put a damper on the movie at first for me. But, he eventually grew on me as the movie progressed, and by the end I was ok with his kind and loving character, especially once he sang that song at Ana’s house. Really, his whole relationship with Ana made him a much more likable character. Looking back on it, his transformation from the strange OCD hermit to the kind person he was in the end was heartwarming.
One thing that bothered me particularly was the humanization of the watch. I didn’t like that the writers tried to make it into some sort of “character” that had a mind of its own. I guess that it helped the ending come together, but I think the watch could have been less of a focus in the movie.
I did enjoy the whole narration bit of the movie. Many movies are narrated, but not in the way that this movie is- it really was meant to sound like a book rather than pure movie narration. Not only that, the whole concept of the movie- that Harold could actually helplessly hear his narration, was an interesting concept to explore. I think it would be interesting to read a book where the characters in the book could hear the narration of the book, although that might start to get extremely confusing. It would have also been humorous to hear the narrator from a comedy book narrate his life, or really just have a narrator that was positive and would say something like, “Then, Harold bought a winning lottery ticket” or something like that. Perhaps that would have been a better use of Will Ferrell as a main character- having the narrator be a comedic one.
The one thing that really bothered me about this movie was the fact that his death was so inevitable. Just because Jules said that the ending was a masterpiece, it meant that Harold had to die in the way that Eiffel wrote it. Really? This is a human life we are talking about. Surely just because a book’s ending is a masterpiece doesn’t mean that someone actually has to DIE. It would have been much more realistic in my mind if Eiffel didn’t even hurt Harold in the first place. But, I guess it makes for a good ending. In my eyes, it was just a silly that just because Jules thought it was a masterpiece, Harold had to die.
All in all, I give this movie a 4 out of 5 stars. Perhaps if the narrator was comedic, this movie could have been a major hit. It would have been hilarious to watch a funny narrator put Will Ferrell through a bunch of funny scenes. Regardless, the plot and characters of Stranger Than Fiction were interesting, and it was a good watch.