If youre into existentialist cinema mixing fantasy with reality – this is for you.
Otherwise, its an implausible paradox of free will that defies explanation.
Mild-mannered Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an agent for the Internal Revenue Service in Chicago. Hes a cautious loner, following the same regimented routine every day. Suddenly, one morning, while brushing his teeth, he hears a female voice narrating the play-by-play of this morning ritual, as if to an audience. Bewildered and concerned because the voice has told him hes going to die, Harold seeks help. First from a colleague (Tony Hale), then from a psychiatrist (Linda Hunt), finally from a literature professor (Dustin Hoffman), who recommends that, if he thinks hes going to die, he should start living the life hes always wanted. That leads Harold into taking up the guitar and making fumbling romantic moves on a sexy bohemian baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal) whom hes currently auditing.
Meanwhile, an experienced assistant (Queen Latifah) has been dispatched to help reclusive, angst-ridden novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), who is struggling to find an ending to Harolds story which, it seems, she is, indeed, telling.
Playwright-turned-screenwriter 31 year-old Zach Helm seems to be channeling Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show with this engaging, inventive metaphysical concept which director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) meticulously mainstreams, grounding the vivid fantasy just enough to allow the audience to suspend disbelief.
While the experienced ensemble cast delivers on the drama, its Will Ferrell who surprises, creating an eager vulnerability with an undercurrent of desperation. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Stranger Than Fiction is a satisfying, inspirational 7. Its the trippy process of storytelling that counts.