Stranger than Fiction is a rare movie. It seems to break all the well-establish rules. But it doesn’t gloat about the way its breaking the rules. Instead it breaks them in a way that makes you wonder why there are rules in the first place. And why others have to break them so boldly and without reason.
The films main character, Harold Crick, is introduced with voice over that I was hooked by. It was the kind of loving voice (beautifully done by Emma Thompson) that you can’t help but be taken by. Can’t help but agree with. And it is this voice that guides us through Harold’s morning. That is, until, Harold notices the voice.
Harold, played brilliantly by Will Farrell, breaks the rules by noticing the voice. And he becomes increasingly annoyed as the voice explains how he dresses, how he brushes his teeth, and how he gets to the bus in the morning.
It is Harold’s interaction with the voice that is crucial and innovative in Stranger Than Fiction. In Harold’s recognition of the voice, he becomes far more interesting than he had been at the start. He becomes conscious of his life, his choices, and who he has become.
Stranger than Fiction is the kind of movie that invites us in on a little secret. And it does so consciously and without remorse. We know before Harold does what his fate is, how he will end up. But this tragic irony is not just used. It is made conscious. It makes a giant self-referential show of itself. And that is the magic.
The interaction between the character and the narrator is crucial, and fascinating. It is magical realism that seems perfectly reasonable, in just the way that magical realism should.
But because of this magical realism, the film can be disliked. Either because it is unrealistic, or because it doesn’t take the whole thing far enough. For people in love with Charlie Kaufman’s opaque brand of magical realism, this may be too straight-forward, too easy.
I think that criticism is misplaced, as Stranger Than Fiction is both an incredibly complex and simple movie. At it’s best, it encourages us to grow along with its protagonist. To question along with its protagonist.
It’s full of the simple questions and the simple joys that make each day different from the other.
And for making us aware of this simple difference that we all too often ignore, this movie is brilliant.