A few spoilers within.
Stranger Than Fiction is about a novelist and one her characters. This is a fun movie for writers and would be writers to watch. It’s all about character development, how a fairly boring and dull character changes and grows into a dynamic and significant one. The dull and boring character in Stranger Than Fiction is played by the amazingly dull and boring Will Ferrell. The Wife hates Will Ferrell, but even she liked this movie.
The Writer is played by the brilliant Emma Thompson, and the one sour note in the film is the baffling inclusion of Queen Latifa as a hard-nosed slave driver from The Publisher. She is clearly a token player in this otherwise brilliant cast. Though to be honest, I have no idea who I would have cast to take her place, so maybe I would not have liked anyone in that role I just know I didn’t like Queen Latifa in it.
Dustin Hoffman has a role as a College Professor who is a student of novels and helps Our Hero discover whether he is in a tragedy or a comedy. Will Ferrell is hoping, of course, for a comedy-he has a romance, so for a short time all looks well. But when Will discovers, with Dustin’s help, who the Author is, this is the end for Will-Emma kills all her heroes.
Will Ferrel’s character is an auditor for the IRS, so we naturally start off by hating him. There is a nice cameo by those two knuckleheads in the Sonic Commercials, they play two knuckleheads who work for the IRS. There are a number of seemingly random events and lots of interesting architecture. Also a number of odd things happen-at one point Will’s apartment is tore into by a wrecking crew with the wrong address.
There is a simple out for the tragic ending of Will Ferrell’s story, but for some reason the writers of the movie refused to use it. Or maybe it was just one of those usual screenplay by comity things and it was left in for no real reason from an earlier version. The key to Emma’s tragedy is that she kills off her main characters. Several times throughout the narrative, we are told the story from the point of view of Will’s watch. The obvious out is the have the Watch be the main character of the novel. But if that was the solution, Dustin Hoffman didn’t like it. He wanted Emma to kill Will so that his novel would be one of the best in recent history.
I liked all the voice over work that Emma Thompson does and how see sounds so serious and sincere about it all. She calmly and authoritatively describes such mundane acts as Will brushing his teeth and counting the strokes. But she also have several lines of fairly profound narrative which leave you wondering if the movie you are watching is in fact, a comedy or a tragedy.
Robert A Heinlein’s last few books worked on the idea that everything anyone ever wrote became reality somewhere. World as Myth I think he called it. The effect on his writing was that he really liked to give his characters everything they ever wanted and a happily ever after to boot. Emma’s writer finds that she is wracked with guilt over the characters she has killed in her other novels, now that she knows Will’s character is real. The odds very good that she will never kill another character. Well, maybe a watch.