Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction - cover - Click on image to go to Amazon's Stranger Than Fiction page

Stranger Than Fiction – cover – Click on image to go to Amazon’s Stranger Than Fiction page

Stranger Than Fiction is an amazing, unique, quirky and surprisingly excellent movie. A friend of ours, Adam aka @ross549 gave a DVD to us of a movie we had never seen before. He gave us the DVD not because he didn’t like the movie, but because they got a Blu-Ray version of the movie and didn’t need the DVD version any longer. That movie was Stranger Than Fiction. It became one of my favorites for many reasons.

First, Stranger Than Fiction showed a side of Will Ferrell that I never realized existed. Yes, I know comedy is as hard to do as any other genre of movies and it takes great talent to do comedy, but I found that there was just much more to Will Ferrell’s abilities as an actor; Will Ferrell was much more versatile than I ever imagined. I knew of Will Ferrell from the mid-70s on Saturday Night Live, and had seen a few of his zany comedy movies, but this Harold Crick was a much deeper character than any role I had seen him become before.

Second, the combination of a fantastic cast including; Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah and Maggie Gyllenhaal was magical.

Third, it was so unique of a concept for a movie!

Fourth, I am a sucker for a comedy that is also a bit of a drama, with romance and fantasy thrown in for good measure!

OK, some stats on this movie from Amazon:

Product Details:

Actors: Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Maggie GyllenhaalDirectors: Marc Forster
Writers: Zach Helm
Producers: Aubrey Henderson, Eric Kopeloff, Hans Ritter, Jim Miller, Joseph Drake
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
Subtitles: English, French
Dubbed: French
Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
PLEASE NOTE: Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called “region-free” DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: February 27, 2007
Run Time: 113 minutes
Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (430 customer reviews)
ASIN: B000LXH0AE

The movie came out in theaters in the United States on 10 November 2006. IMDb gives it a rating of 7.7/10 Stars and even though it came out in 2006 in theaters and 2007 on DVD, it is on the rise.

IMDb 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

Everything from the opening credits to the end held my interest and kept me right on the edge of my seat. This movie is unique, quirky, amazing, and so well done. This was Will Ferrell’s first so called ‘dramatic’ role and he did it so well, I really expect more from him in more dramatic and heartwarming roles.

There were many wonderful reviews of this movie at Amazon and I can’t list all my favorites here, but here is Amazon’s review by Doug Thomas:

Much was written about Will Ferrell’s first “dramatic role” as Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who begins hearing a voice narrating his life. But Stranger Than Fiction is hardly a drama. However, what Ferrell does–like Jim Carrey before him in The Truman Show–is handle a toned-down character with genuineness and affection: you believe he is this guy. Crick leads a lonely life filled with numbers and routines. While at first he considers the voice a nuisance, Crick decides more action is needed when it speaks of “his demise.” Enter Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), who takes on the absurd notion with revelry, trying to find out what kind of book Crick’s life is leading. It turns out that the voice Crick is hearing belongs to Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a very real–and troubled–author who is writing a book in which Crick is a fictional character. As usual with these things, the stuffed shirt learns to live a better life–Crick even falls for one of his audits, a brash baker named Ana (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Marc Foster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) has the right tone for the film, using great urban scenes (the unnamed city is Chicago) with interesting visualizations of Crick’s world of numbers. He also directs Ferrell, Hoffman, and Gyllenhaal to their most charming performances (plus Linda Hunt and Tom Hulce pop up in two funny scenes). Ferrell succeeds in being a romantic lead you can root for; a scene where he eats Ana’s freshly baked cookies is totally delightful without a hint of sarcasm. Screenwriter Zach Helm has two personal traits with his story: like Crick he followed his heart (he stopped rewriting scripts and only worked on his own) and like Eiffel, the final results are not a masterpiece, but good, and entertaining enough. Britt Daniel of the band Spoon worked on the dynamite soundtrack.–Doug Thomas

 

And just two from the multitude of reviews by regular movie viewers like you and me:

Literature, Taxes, Death And Cookies–A Difficult Concept Is Executed With Originality And Precision

By K. Harris

The idea of “Stranger Than Fiction” appealed to me the moment I first heard of it. Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, wakes up one day and hears a voice. An omniscient narrator is relating his life with precision and no one can hear that voice but himself. It turns out that the voice is Emma Thompson, playing a famed author who is actually writing a novel about a character named Harold Crick. And it’s the same Harold Crick. What is being put down in fiction is also concurrently happening in real life. It’s a tricky concept, one that I felt might be impossible to pull off effectively. Well, not only does “Stranger Than Fiction” pull it off–it succeeds grandly as a surprisingly thoughtful, amusing, and moving contemplation of life. For Harold must immediately confront his mortality when the narrator informs him/us that he will soon die!

~

Very Very Funny . . . And Odd

By N. Burt

I loved this movie. It is funny and odd, but it has a lot of heart to it. The writing is so good that my friends and I thought at first that it must be adapted from a larger work, such as a book. The characters are that well crafted and the story that unique. These are not things most comedies bother with at present. Now, I’m calling this a comedy, but it will pull on your emotions a bit. Its all worth it though. The acting is great, which is not unexpected given the cast. If you love movies and are looking for something kind of different and original this is a good way to go. A really fun film to watch.

There was a really good TIFF Screening review on the movie by grissomsbutterfly1013 (Canada) on September 10 2006 about 2 months before it came to theaters in the USA:

Saw it at The Toronto International Film Festival and it was well done. Original storyline, fantastic performance from Ferrel, Thompson and Hoffman. The most moving performance from Will Ferrel I have ever seen is within this film. The storyline some may believe to be too far fetched at first to take seriously, but in the end it does work. What makes the film work the most are the brilliant performances from Ferrel and Thompson. Without these two- the film couldn’t have been pulled off! I recommend this flick to anyone looking to laugh and cry and then laugh again. It was a truly brilliant film. 10/10 (Hoffman and Ferrel were too kind to shake hands and greet the fans inside the screening as well.)

 

Couldn’t have said it better myself! Awesome movie. If you enjoy unique concepts in heartwarming and funny movies with a great cast, you may also find that Stranger Than Fiction becomes a favorite movie of yours as well.

                    

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland (2004)

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland, Best Picture of the Year, with Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie and Dustin Hoffman

I recently had an opportunity to again see this wonderful film that still garners a 7.9/10 Star movie at IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes still gives it 83% rating, and the audience an 84% rating.

I hadn’t seen it since probably 2007 when I watched it with a neice and nephew (my brother’s children) while spending some time with them one day. It was a totally amazing story and film. Seeing it again recently with my Jim was a special treat as I could focus even more attention on the actual story than while visiting with the children who had already seen this movie so many times because they loved it and own the DVD.

I found the part of J. M. Barrie aka, Sir James Matthew Barrie, played by Johnny Depp was one of his best roles (and that is a really hard call because I love every movie I have ever had the pleasure of watching Johnny Depp perform). You can see them all at his filmography because there are few listed that I haven’t enjoyed!

I can say the same thing about Kate Winslet’s part as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, as it is certainly one of two particularly favored parts that Kate Winslet has performed including her role as Rose DeWitt Bukator on Titanic (was Titanic really done back in 1997! Wow! I love that movie too. That movie is still the definitive telling of the story in my mind).

The Llewelyn Davies boys are portrayed by Freddie Highmore (Peter), Nick Roud (George), Joe Prospero (Jack), and Luke Spill (Michael).

The interaction of J. M. Barrie and the boys was nothing short of amazing. I can’t say enough about the empathy between James, and the boys and their Mother, Sylvia. Several of their names were actually used in this precious fantasy story, Peter Pan.

According to Wikipedia:

Finding Neverland is a 2004 semi-biographical film about playwright J. M. Barrie and his relationship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan, directed by Marc Forster. The screenplay by David Magee is based on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee. The film was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Depp’s portrayal of J. M. Barrie, and won one for Jan A. P. Kaczmarek‘s musical score.

The story focuses on Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, his platonic relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and his close friendship with her sons, who inspire the classic play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

And by Rotten Tomatoes,

Following up his critically acclaimed Monster’s Ball, director Marc Forster took on this biography of playwright James Matthew Barrie, the scribe who penned the children’s classic Peter Pan. Johnny Depp stars as the turn-of-the-century writer as the film follows Barrie as he struggles to write and have his play produced while he cares for his down-on-their-luck neighbors who inspired the story in the first place. J.M. Barrie’s Neverland also stars Dustin Hoffman, Kate Winslet, and Julie

And IMDb,

The story of J.M. Barrie‘s friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan. The movie details the experiences of “Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie, which lead him to write the children’s classic. He got to know four children who have no father. Drawing from his time with the kids, he writes a story about children who don’t want to grow up.

I have been in love with the story of Peter Pan since I was a child and have read the book several times in my life. Seeing this movie again, just reinforces my love of the story of Peter Pan, and it’s roots so much. I think J. M. Barrie would be pleased. Because of this movie, I simply had to devour most everything I could about the real life characters he used as the inspiration for this wonderful story.

J. M. Barrie, thank you so very much for one of the best rides a book can give to young and old alike in mind, spirit and soul. Peter Pan, has led to so many wonderful retellings as well as to great stories like this heartwarming and inspiring movie Finding Neverland.

What a joy it was to get to see this wonderful movie Finding Neverland inspired by the real life interaction of J. M. Barrie and the boys who were the real inspiration for the timeless book Peter Pan. I spent the movie in turn laughing and crying and feeling such human warmth from watching this movie. Life in their day was hard, but this movie also showed how any life, no matter how short, could be experienced with joy, imagination, positive expectancy in life, love, and most of all without having to grow up.

Thank you to J. M. Barrie, David Magee, Marc Forster, Richard N. Gladstein, Nellie Bellflower, Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Radha Mitchell, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman (also in Hook by the way), Freddie Highmore, and the other boys, as well as all the other supporting roles who were all responsible for this movie and it’s success. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world…

Some other sources for Peter Pan, and Neverland:

Neverpedia

Neverland – Wikipedia

Peter Pan (1953)

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie – Project Gutenberg

Peter Pan – audio – Librivox