Monday, May 21, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

2006, US, directed by Marc Forster

Marc Forster is developing one of Hollywood's more eclectic directorial resumes, with this film following from Monster's Ball, Stay and Finding Neverland. If anything could be said to unite the films, it's perhaps their performances - and, less positively, somewhat flubbed execution that leaves the viewer feeling as though an opportunity has been missed, with the director sometimes, as here, coming frustratingly close to delivering something truly interesting, but backing off near the conclusion.

However, there is much to enjoy in the performances, not least from a subdued and surprisingly engaging Will Ferrell as Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who finds that he can hear his life being narrated by an unseen author. While Harold's attempts to deal with this state of affairs are nominally the main event - and allow for nice turns from Emma Thompson as the author and Dustin Hoffman as a literature professor (with Queen Latifah, by contrast, wasted in a fairly pointless role) - in reality the core of the film is Harold's out-of-character romance with quirky baker Maggie Gyllenhaal. The latter is one of the most charming performers around these days, and the two actors have an entirely unexpected and engaging chemistry which creates a sense of well-earned emotional payoff moments.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States