Stranger Than Fiction is a quirky comedy drama about an IRS auditor named Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) who begins to hear a disembodied voice narrating on his life. No-one else can hear the voice and as it describes his innermost thoughts and feelings and even predicts what he will do next Harold´s life is changed forever. This is an odd film with laughs aplenty and lots of charm.
Harold is a man of routine until one morning he begins to hear the narrating voice, he gets puzzled, he shouts at it, he asks other people if they can hear it but to no avail. Harold goes to a psychiatrist but again has no luck in unravelling the mystery and so in desperation he goes to see Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) an expert in literature who helps him try to find out what kind of a story he is in.
The more Harold tries to figure out the voice the more he is affected by it and his meticulous routine begins to break down. He finds himself strongly attracted to a woman he is auditing named Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and under the instruction of the voice and Professor Hilbert he pursues her in his own way, the only problem is she appears to hate him. Harold makes other changes too; he starts to live his life more fully and for the first time feels truly happy.
Stranger Than Fiction certainly lives up to the name. Written by Zach Helm this is a clever idea which I won´t spoil here suffice to say the voice is adequately explained and the film builds to a satisfying conclusion. Helm deals with the various threads quite nicely and the dialogue is very funny in places. The idea is somewhat reminiscent of Adaptation and indeed the writing of Kaufman but this is far less cynical.
Direction comes from Marc Forster and is also very good. There are some interesting scenes as this mixture of comedy, romance and fantasy unfolds. Forster adds wee graphics to illustrate Harold´s counting habits, he also creates a fantastical almost fairytale feel and its hard not to be swept along.
This is a thoughtful film and represents a departure from pure comedy for Will Ferrell. He does brilliantly as Harold who manages to be bland and yet charismatic and likeable at the same time. His comic talents are not in doubt but he proves himself capable of dramatic acting here as well. Maggie Gyllenhaal gave a great performance as the caring Ana, very cute though not without her sharp side. The supporting cast included Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and Queen Latifah.
Stranger Than Fiction works on every level and is hugely enjoyable viewing. The film runs for 113 minutes and the charming love affair between Harold and Ana is the highlight. This is great entertainment which is gently thought-provoking and is guaranteed to leave you smiling.