Saturday, May 23, 2009

Movie #8: Stranger Than Fiction

Will Ferrell playing a (quasi-) serious role? It must be a sign of the Apocalypse. But no, Stranger Than Fiction was a surprisingly excellent movie. I say surprisingly because, while Will Ferrell is often entertaining to watch in his goofy roles, such as Buddy in Elf and Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, his films are typically not terribly high-quality, don't play any mind games (except the constant internal debate on why you're wasting your life watching the film), and explore very little about humanity except its incessant stupidity. But this movie is different.

Part of that has to do with the supporting cast of Stranger Than Fiction. The ALWAYS-amazing Emma Thompson plays a slightly crazy, slightly creepy, first-hand-experience-obsessed author who is struggling to figure out how to kill off her main character; Queen Latifah plays her assistant who is always trying to bring her back into a more theoretical, professional type of literary realm. Dustin Hoffman plays a quirky but somewhat wise literature professor, and Maggie Gyllenhall plays an anarchist baker who won't pay her back taxes. All of them play very well off Ferrell's portrayal of IRS agent Harold Crick-- a man of numbers and routine who starts to hear the voice of a narrator in his head. When this narrator announces his imminent death, Crick starts on a journey to discover who it is, what the end result is going to be, and if he can affect it...and on the way begins to expand and improve his small life extremely.

Stranger Than Fiction is well-acted, with a plot that has twists and turns that are at time difficult to keep track of. Most profoundly, however, it examines the quirks and significances of life and death, and the value attached to each in its time. As such, it is from a scene in this movie that I draw today's thought for the day:
Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren't any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true.

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