Stranger Than Fiction

Reminder - these weekly columns will be quite short and posted at erratic times for the next few weeks as I'm in school taking six units of accelerated classes – the equivalent of twelve units, working full time and trying to stay sane. We should return to normal at the end of May.

I'm kind of surprised I haven't already written about Stranger Than Fiction. It's one of my favorite movies and it's one of the few that rarely hits any wrong notes. The cast is fantastic and the writing is divine. I rewatched it this week and loved it even more than the last time I had seen it.

Will Ferrell, who is usually cast as a pugnacious buffoon, the kind of character that gets old in about ten seconds, plays Harold Crick, a buttoned IRS employee who lives a very regimented life. He is at least somewhat obsessive compulsive, counting his steps and toothbrush strokes and all sorts of other things. Clever cinematography shows us how he relates to numbers, which I think is a charming touch.

Everything is going along in a rigid routine when he suddenly hears a woman's voice narrating his movements and thoughts. At first he's just puzzled but when he hears her say that his death is imminent he gets a little panicky. He tries talking to a mental health professional but doesn't like her diagnosis (schizophrenia) and eventually seeks assistance from a literature professor, wonderfully played by Dustin Hoffman.

Meanwhile Harold is sent to audit a baker called Ana, who is only paying a portion of her taxes and withholding the part she thinks will be spent on things like defense spending. She is alluring and vivid, bold and beguiling and Harold is knocked off his feet. He might normally be out of touch with his emotions but this time his narrator helps him along by letting him know how he feels. (The narrator is played by Emma Thompson, who is so good I can't even tell you.) As Harold grows more and more smitten Ms. Thompson's character, Karen Eiffel, is falling apart. She has been writing the same book for a very long time and is so stuck that her publisher sends Queen Latifah over to be her assistant, which really means make sure the damn book gets finished and turned in.

Stranger Than Fiction asks some interesting moral questions and shows us characters from a wide variety of viewpoints. You know the old expression about not judging a book by its cover? If I had seen this poster and didn't know anything else about the film I would have skipped it. So don't let that stop you. It's quite misleading.

Bonus Treat:
April is Poetry Month so I present to you a sonnet by one of my favorite writers, John M. Ford. This particular poem was actually a response to a post at a site called Making Light, where Mike often left wonderful posts. (I was lucky enough to meet Mike in person at a convention in Minnesota, where he taught me what a trope is, in a way that didn't make me feel dumb.) This poem is called Sonnet: Against Entropy.