The following refers to a movie not related to the Pahlaniuk book also written up in this node.
I ended up crying at the end of this movie. Noting that I was sitting alone in my apartment watching the movie on a Macintosh screen, wearing headphones, slightly too cold because I hadn't reset the thermostat and surrounded by junk from my ongoing attempt to move to another city, my first thought was "This frigging movie made me cry, and considering that I'm single, it's a fucking waste."
Stranger than Fiction is a metaliterary film. Note how I slipped that pseudointellectual term in there? Good, because it's a metaphor. No wait; it's a pun. The film is both, in fact, metaliterary and pseudointellectual. It's so damn pseudointellectual that Dustin Hoffman plays a professor of English literature whilst Emma Thompson plays an author of significant works thereof. The movie is about writing, and about living, and what to do when doing both when you have too much or not enough information about what you're supposed to be doing.
Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, is (at the outset of the film) the most routinized and boring individual ever seen, at least in this movie's world. True to form, he's an IRS auditor. Everything is going along fine as the narrator explains to us, over the movie's beginning minutes, what Harold's life is like over the course of one of his boring and identical weekdays.
The next day, Harold starts to hear the narrator too.
Not all the time. Just when he (as we the viewers know) is 'on script.' When he starts looking around for the voice's owner, talking back, or trying not to do things the voice is explaining that he's doing, it disappears, only to resume with a slight air of edgy impatience when he finally goes back to toeing the storyline.
This would be a run of the mill man-hears-voices story, save for two things. The quality of the cast (which, to my amazement at my own words, does include Will Ferrell) and the (ha!) writing. You see, Harold's in trouble. At one point, the narrator used the phrase 'imminent death.' While Harold, with the assistance of professor Jules Hilbert (Hoffman), to whom he was referred by a psychiatrist (a most bemused Linda Hunt), tries to figure out whether he's in a tragedy or a comedy and what he should do, the story - with the assistance of a pissed-off and meddlesome wristwatch - starts to loop about somewhat gleefully. Almost as much as that last sentence.
I won't say this is on par with or even in the same league as If On A Winter's Night a Traveller for metafiction; however, this is a movie. It's operating under a severe handicap of both form and time. Within that handicap's constraints, I must say, it does a really really nice job. The parallels between the ending of the story in the movie and the story of the movie made me smile while sniffling.
See, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), the author of this ongoing story/book/narrative, starts to have thoughts about what it means to live, as she thinks about what it means to write - and she starts to think about the characters that she's written and how they lived.
And it all changes.
I recommend this film for a good date movie. If you're a secret sentimentalist like me and weep buckets at a good Merchant/Ivory production, rent it with a bowl of popcorn and a good bottle of wine. Or whisky, which I can recommend from personal experience. Don't expect much that's important to come out of this. But as the film ends, think about what I just said in the previous sentence.
Stranger Than Fiction
Directed by Mark Forster; written by Zach Helm
Will Ferrell - Harold Crick
Emma Thompson - Karen Eiffel
Queen Latifah - Penny Escher
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Ana Pascal
Dustin Hoffman - Jules Hilbert