Highly inventive (Charlie) Kaufman-esque script by Zac Helm is brought to life in director Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction.
IRS auditor Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) leads a life of dull monotony; one day he begins to hear a voice. He soon discovers that the voice is that of a narrator, telling his story, and with the help of Dustin Hoffman´s literary professor (and an ominous “little did he know” voiceover) he realizes that something bad may be about to happen.
Meanwhile, author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) has a bit of writer´s block; her problem: she can´t seem to find the right way to kill off her main character. When Crick overhears Eiffel in a TV interview, he recognizes the voice of his narrator and sets out to find her.
The film is both intelligent and thoughtful, a rare feat; it not only plays with its characters (and the audience), but it also cares about them (and us). Though Forster occasionally lets things lag during the more conventional romantic scenes between Harold and Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a baker whom Crick is sent to audit, Ferrell and Gyllenhaal are affecting and we care enough about the characters to forgive the director.
The main problem occurs late in the film, when Helm has emptied his bag of tricks and we are left with a predictable finale that lacks the imaginative punch of the film that preceded it; it´s slightly disappointing, but would have been even more so if we didn’t care as much about the characters.
Production design is nice but doesn’t quite match the inventiveness of the script; scenes showcasing Crick´s obsession with numbers feel a bit derivative (A Beautiful Mind comes to mind).
Overall, it´s an enjoyable ride that doesn’t quite reach the heights of its aspirations, but provides a lot of fun, and a bit of heart, along the way.