Stranger Than Fiction

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Stranger Than Fiction

Director: Marc Forster
Writer: Zach Helm
Cinematography: Roberto Schaefer
Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman
Studio Info: Columbia/Mandate Pictures, 113 mins.

What’s strange about this fabulist concoction is how familiar it is. Writer Zach Helm seems to have picked his favorite elements from a recent spate of meta-comedies, in which the characters serve as pawns in a surreal chess game. Sort of Eternal Huckabees of the Spotless Malkovich: An Adaptation. Sharp dialogue and a stellar cast redeem this Charlie Kaufman manqué.

Will Ferrell plays it straight (a la Jim Carrey) as a stiff-collar IRS man whose dull existence goes haywire when he begins hearing Emma Thompson’s voice in his head. She’s a famous novelist and he may only be a figment of her imagination: the star of her new tragedy, a decade overdue. As soon as she conquers her writer’s block, she’s going to kill him off. Hello… Fate? Get me a rewrite! Wacky literary theorist Dustin Hoffman does his darndest while Ferrell’s accurately named Harold Crick falls awkwardly for a sensuous hippie baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Their unlikely chemistry, and a stray Wreckless Eric tune, compels despite some overwrought stunt work.

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