Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Will Ferrell, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman,
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Queen Latifah

"Harold Click isn't ready to go. Period"

Cinema 3, Greenbelt 3

Harold Click

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an IRS agent. A guy who has lived the past 12 years of his life in such a routinely fashion. From the number of strokes when he brushes his teeth to the number of steps he walks to get to the bus stop, every morning. One day he hears a voice in his head and realizes he is the character in a novel being narrated and written by Emma Thompson. His monotonous existence turns upside down when the voice in his head announces that Harold Crick must face his 'imminent death'. Poor Harold. He must now figure out if his life is a comedy or a tragedy to determine how the novel ends. He seeks the help of a literary theorist (Dustin Hoffman) and together they come up with ways to 'extend' Harold's life. It helps that Kay Eiffel, the author is currently going through a mental block and can't seem to decide how to finish off her character. In the meantime, certain events in Harold's life give him more reason to want to live. He falls in love, learns to play the guitar and takes a leave of absence from his boring job.

"Stranger than Fiction" is an endearingly nice (for lack of a better word) movie. The somehow strange premise works because the director takes us on a ride along with Harold Crick. We cheer as we notice his growing fondness for Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). We cringe when Kay (the author) researches methods for Harold's imminent death. We laugh during the brainstorming session with Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman). We get attached to Harold, he is a kind, no frills, no hang ups kind of person. Yes he does lack a sense of humor but he is an IRS agent for Pete's sake, these guys are not known for being funny.

It also works because Harold is portrayed by Will Ferrell. You would probably have to drag me by my hair to watch a Will Ferrell movie and I would probably barf during the entire movie but in "Stranger than Fiction" he did a good job. Much like his character in "Melinda and Melinda" (another delightful film I liked), here he isn't obnoxious nor irritatingly annoying, he had a serious demeanor with his deadpan "I don't get the joke" aura. I have to say to the guy seated in the seat below me in the cinema who kept laughing at the most inappropriate time, just because Will Ferrell is in the movie doesn't mean that everything he says is supposed to draw laughter. Just shut up, already! Geez.

Anyways back to the movie, I liked the rapport between Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffman, their sessions together revealed a lot about Harold's life. Dustin Hoffman gives a steady, authoritative characterization to the multifaceted professor. Maggie Gyllenhaal as his love interest was great. Her bohemian yet gutsy stance along with this 'thinking out of the box' attitude humanized Ana Pascal. Emma Thompson's role as the reclusive author Kay Eiffel who had a stumbling writer's block was authentic. Her character driven by streaks of eccentricity while she researched for her novel and acting without any make up on takes guts to play and Emma Thompson did an impeccable job.

The script is well written, the dialogue was crisp and clever. The special effects didn't overwhelm, just enough to give us a glimpse on how Harold Crick's mind works. It is also well directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball), presenting us with scenes that are relevant to the plot, no lingering waste of footage, adding just enough music to give it a lyrical but not nauseating feel and giving us a good blend of interesting characters who all were a delight to watch.

I was totally blown away by the premise of this movie. I loved it. It is about realizing that we are the masters of our fate. Someone up there might have already written our life history but it is up to us whether we want it to be a comedy or a tragedy. We tend to get stuck in our routine and sometimes we don't even realize it. That life is too short to keep postponing our dreams like wanting to learn a new language or taking up a hobby. Yet at the same time, learning to accept that we cannot control our destiny so we might as well just enjoy each day as it dawns and hold on tight for the ride.

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