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Stranger Than Fiction
Can Will Ferrell do drama?
Stranger Than Fiction
Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Stranger than Fiction".
OPENING WEEKEND: $20,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $73,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

March 22nd, 2006: An IRS auditor named Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) suddenly finds himself at the center of a bizarre development when he begins to hear his entire life narrated to him by a female voice. The disorientation soon transforms into paranoia when the narrator reveals that Harold’s life is about to end. In an attempt to escape his impending demise, he seeks advice from an English professor, the unusual Dr. Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman). He also finds some comfort in an unlikely relationship with the defiant Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), his latest audit victim. Unbeknownst to Harold, he is at the mercy of a struggling writer named Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who has chosen him as a protagonist in her next novel. As the two worlds collide, it is her voice that Harold can hear. In an effort to expedite the book, the anxious publishers have sent out an unyielding assistant named Penny Escher (Queen Latifah) to help facilitate the writing process, which ultimately spells trouble for Harold.

What to Expect: Marc Forster, who will attempt to bounce back from the decisive critical and commercial failure of his last film, the little-heard-of Stay, is directing Stranger Than Fiction. Since Stay’s debacle at the theaters remained fairly muted last year, it has fortunately done little to damage the director’s solid reputation. Forster’s remarkably powerful Monster’s Ball brought him instant critical acclaim in 2001 and gave Halle Berry a well-deserved Academy Award for best actress. His next project was another multi-Oscar nominated feature, Finding Neverland. By recounting author Sir James Matthew Barrie’s vivid imagination, the movie explored that line between fiction and reality, which also appears to be the focal point in his new film. Zach Helm, who has rapidly skyrocketed onto everyone’s “watch list” in Hollywood, wrote the screenplay for Stranger Than Fiction. Esquire Magazine heralded him as one of their “Best & Brightest” in 2004, while Variety named him one of the “10 Writers to Watch.” Stranger Than Fiction will be his first feature film, but he is also writing and directing the scrumptious sounding and deliciously themed Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, which is also currently scheduled for a release in November. The writer-director combination for Stranger Than Fiction appears to be quite promising and potent.

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The film will undoubtedly benefit from its long list of talented actors like Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer, Rain Man) and Emma Thompson (Howards End, Sense and Sensibility) or Oscar nominees Queen Latifah (Chicago) and Tom Hulce (Amadeus), but it will be Maggie Gyllenhaal and Will Ferrell, the two rising stars, who will drive this film. The off-beat Gyllenhaal (Secretary, Happy Endings), who has blossomed in independent films over the years, may finally break out into the mainstream in 2006. Aside from Stranger Than Fiction, she will be lending her voice to the animated summer blockbuster Monster House as well as starring in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Much like Jim Carrey and Bill Murray in recent years, Will Ferrell (Elf, The Producers, Talladega Nigths: The Legend of Ricky Bobby) is clearly making a decisive move toward drama with this film. Of course, Stranger Than Fiction is primarily a comedy and should rely on Ferrell’s characteristic timing and delivery, but it will probably contain more serious and tender moments than anything Ferrell has ever done before. To anyone who has doubts about his casting in this film, I think Ferrell has all the necessary tools for the transition. Similarly to Jim Carrey and Bill Murray, who I’ve mentioned before, there are hints of an underlying sadness in Ferrell’s rather suggestive facial expressions. Like Murray especially, he has been able to get laughs with a stone-faced look and in Stranger Than Fiction, whatever emotions are buried beneath, may finally be exposed.

It’s difficult to imagine that screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is somehow not involved in this movie, but his influential style may have had an impact on the script. Adaptation. in particular stands out as a similarly constructed narrative. As it weaved between truth and personal delusion, the film was a semi-autobiographical account of Kaufman writing the screenplay for Adaptation. It was like watching a film literally write itself, and when it was all done, Kaufman credited himself and his imaginary brother Donald for the script. Stranger Than Fiction appears to possess the same whimsical charms and self-referential characteristics, which is a good sign for first time screenwriter Helm. Like Kaufman’s films, Stranger Than Fiction will probably ponder serious existential questions, without abandoning its playful and mischievous nature. It should have a healthy balance of unusual comedy, touching drama, and innovative storytelling.

In Conclusion: With this many stars on board, a talented director in charge, and a new and original writer providing the screenplay, Stranger Than Fiction promises to create considerable buzz during the fall movie season. It will probably not be experimental in nature as Forster’s films have been quite accessible in the past. Unsurprisingly, early buzz from test screenings has been very positive. For Gyllenhaal and especially Ferrell, the film may represent an important milestone in their careers. I think Ferrell will impress critics and audiences alike with his ability to perform with subtlety and grace. With his gifts, I believe he has a future in drama, but don’t fret Ferrell fans, Stranger Than Fiction will still be, first and foremost, a comedy.

Similar Titles: The Truman Show, Groundhog Day, Adaptation, Being John Malkovich
November 10th, 2006 (wide)
February 27th, 2007 (DVD)

Sony Pictures

Marc Forster

Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Tony Hale, Kristin Chenoweth

Total: 54 vote(s).

Comedy, Drama, Romance

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity.

113 min





Stranger Than Fiction at AskMen.com

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