Stranger Than Fiction
Putting a director known for serious-minded dramas like Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland together with a star known for comedies that usually involve the baring of his belly and/or the removal of his pants sounds strange enough, but it’s only the first of many oddities Marc Forster’s absurdist yarn promises. Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a nebbishy IRS worker who discovers that an unseen female narrator is chronicling the events of his life in a voice only he can hear. Thanks to the detective work of a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), Crick learns that he’s somehow gotten caught up in the latest work-in-progress of a British novelist (Emma Thompson) and begins trying to wrest back control of his life before it turns from a comedy into a tragedy.
Forster, who says he beat out ”about 30 other directors” vying to shoot Zach Helm’s much buzzed-about script, acknowledges that Ferrell was hardly the obvious choice to take on such a mild-mannered role, one with shades of Kafka: ”I remember when Anchorman came out, a producer said to me, ‘Are you sure you really want to cast him?’ This definitely differs from what Will’s done before. But whether it’s Robin Williams or Jim Carrey or Will, I think every comedian has the desire to try something dramatic.”
Not surprisingly, given its twisty, offbeat premise, the movie has been likened by many to the brain-tickling works of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). But Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays a heavily tattooed anarchist baker (uh-huh, another one of those) who becomes Crick’s unlikely love interest, says the comparison isn’t quite apt: ”This has a very different kind of energy — less cynical and more whimsical. It’s like an adult fairy tale.” She laughs. ”That makes it sound like something dirty.” Or just something appealingly strange.