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Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

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An I.R.S. auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death.

Director:

Marc Forster

Writer:

Zach Helm
Reviews
Popularity
2,778 ( 775)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Will Ferrell ... Harold Crick
William Dick ... IRS Co-Worker #1
Guy Massey Guy Massey ... IRS Co-Worker #2
Martha Espinoza Martha Espinoza ... IRS Co-Worker #3
T.J. Jagodowski T.J. Jagodowski ... IRS Co-Worker #4
Peter Grosz ... IRS Co-Worker #5
Ricky Adams Ricky Adams ... Young Boy
Christian Stolte ... Young Boy's Father
Denise Hughes Denise Hughes ... Kronecker Bus Driver
Peggy Roeder Peggy Roeder ... Polish Woman
Tonray Ho ... IRS Co-Worker #6
Tony Hale ... Dave
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Ana Pascal
Danny Rhodes Danny Rhodes ... Bakery Employee #1
Helen Young Helen Young ... Bakery Customer #1
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Storyline

Everybody knows that your life is a story. But what if a story was your life? Harold Crick is your average IRS agent: monotonous, boring, and repetitive. But one day this all changes when Harold begins to hear an author inside his head narrating his life. The narrator it is extraordinarily accurate, and Harold recognizes the voice as an esteemed author he saw on TV. But when the narration reveals that he is going to die, Harold must find the author of the story, and ultimately his life, to convince her to change the ending of the story before it is too late. Written by the lexster

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Harold Crick isn't ready to go. Period. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 November 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Killing Harold Crick See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$38,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$13,411,093, 12 November 2006, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$40,137,776, 17 December 2006
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS | DTS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The guitar that the narrator describes as saying, "I'm compensating for something. Guess what?" is a Cherry Gibson EDS-1275, the guitar made famous by Jimmy Page. See more »

Goofs

When Dr. Hilbert meets with Harold in his office after reading the book, a crew member is reflected in the window. See more »

Quotes

Harold Crick: You keep your files like this?
Ana Pascal: No, actually I'm quite fastidious. I put them in this box just to screw with you.
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Crazy Credits

During the end credits, the names of the characters and the actors who played them were displayed against stylized images of the places where the characters worked. See more »

Connections

Features Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) See more »

Soundtracks

Death or Glory
(1979)
Written by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon
Performed by The Clash
Courtesy of Sony BMG Music Entertainment (UK) Limited
By Arrangement with BMG Music Entertainment
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Clever intellectual wizardry
9 December 2006 | by Chris_DockerSee all my reviews

What if you only realised the importance of your life only days before you lost it? Even knowing when or how you will die (not such a fatuous idea with the completion of the Genome Project) raises difficult questions about how much we really want to know about ourselves.

Such a theme is usually simplified and subsumed into religious-based tales such as It's a Wonderful Life, but taken as an idea in its own right it has considerable intellectual weight. Harold Crick finds himself the main character in a story as it unfolds, but his annoyance quickly shifts gear as he is aware of the author saying, "Little did he know . . . it would lead to his imminent death."

Not the mindless comedy that the trailer suggests, Stranger Than Fiction is a precise and fairly cerebral story where the laughs stem more from individually appreciating certain aspects of its cleverness rather than any contrived humour.

The surface story is of a man who lives a humdrum if 'successful' life and is awakened to a more three dimensional existence by falling in love. The additional elements will either delight or annoy. IRS auditor Crick (Will Ferrell) starts hearing a voice in his head. It is that of Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a famous author. She describes exactly what he is doing but with a rather better vocabulary than he possesses. When she announces his imminent death, he takes drastic steps to meet her and persuade her to change the ending of her novel.

The characterisation, casting and acting is spot-on. Thompson is at her most refreshingly deranged as the harassed and reclusive author. With a literary equivalence of method acting, Eiffel balances on the edge of her desk trying to imagine the thoughts of someone about to make a suicide jump. She sits in the freezing drizzle watching cars cross a bridge to imagine an accident. Her rants at her 'editorial assistant' (who uses more traditional methods of accessing imagination) give a convincing insight into the creative process. While the voice in Crick's head is stereotypical Thompson, the fuller, isolated character, when we meet her, is a minor revelation. "I don't need a nicotine patch," she declaims angrily to her assistant. "I smoke cigarettes."

Maggie Gyllenhaal, as law drop-out turned baker Ana Pascal, sparkles, glows and is sexily alluring and radiant with passionate love of life - and she manages to light up the screen faster than, say, even Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. Dustin Hoffman has the least challenging of the main parts, but he endows his character (an eminent professor of literature) with the gravitas needed to take ideas of literary interconnectedness seriously. Will Ferrell gives a remarkable break-out performance in a straight role, reminiscent of Jim Carrey in The Truman Show. He is superbly suited to the part as audiences expect him to be a shallow comedy character and here he is trying the find the substantial person inside himself. Most of the audience are concentrating so much on the film's intricate hypothesis and how it is worked out, that only afterwards do we realise what a range of emotions Ferrell has to portray with complete seriousness.

Novelist Kay Eiffel (Thompson) anthropomorphises things like Crick's watch (similarly the official website says, in real time, "As the cursor waited anxiously for the site to load, it couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of elation.") We sense a life-imbuing process that might even be likened to what an actor does with his character; but the film goes a stage further by drawing a similarity with the essentially lifeless, clockwork existence of the IRS auditor whose only escape is discovering love with Pascal. His quest is aided by fictional plot analysis from Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) and of course begs the question, what is fiction?

Director Marc Forster showed consummate skill in portraying the positive escapism of JM Barrie's creative Peter-Pan-writing in Finding Neverland. With Stranger Than Fiction, he has teamed up with brilliant new dramatist Zach Helm. Helm is fascinated with the writing process in what he calls a larger Post-Modern movement. "From Pirandello, to Brecht, to Wilder, to Stoppard, to Woody Allen to Wes Anderson, we can see the progression of a contemporary, self-aware, reality-bending and audience-involving wave in dramatic literature," he says. "I love to see Homer Simpson reacting to his creator, Matt Groenig, or the cast of 'Urinetown' complaining from the stage about their own title."

Even the street names, business names, and the characters' last names of Stranger Than Fiction are significant – Crick, Pascal, Eiffel, Escher, Banneker, Kronecker, Cayly, etc. are all puns on mathematicians who focused on the innate order of things. The invitation is to ask what is beyond the symmetry of things.

Stranger Than Fiction meets even its most formidable challenge - making the ending nail-biting and moving after such surreal content. But the ultimate message of the film seems a little trite if it is supposedly coming from a groundbreaking author. Like the glimpses of Eiffel's book, we are given impressive mountains of style but little substance. As the film doesn't press the strengths forcefully by admitting in so many words what it is getting at, there is a chance you may not bother with the subtleties - in which case it adds up to very little.

A superb testament to inventiveness and worthy of awards in many different categories, Stranger Than Fiction somehow falls short of being a masterpiece.


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