Stranger Than Fiction basically sucks. It's like a hybrid of The Truman Show and Adaptation, only written by someone dumber and less creative. To its credit, the film does not star Nicolas Cage. I saw it with Louise, just after seeing For Your Consideration. After thirty minutes, we would have asked for our money back, except we snuck in for free.
Here's the plot: Will Ferrell starts hearing a disembodied voice narrating his activities, and quickly learns that he's a character in Emma Thompson's novel. No one thinks this is all that weird. No one notices when he starts yelling at the narrator from a bus stop. When he visits a psychiatrist who diagnoses him with schizophrenia, she cheerfully refers him to a professor of literature, played by wacky Dustin Hoffman.
Emma Thompson spends the film smoking cigarettes, wackily spitting into a Kleenex, and trying to finish her novel. Queen Latifah is her assistant, hired to ensure that she delivers her manuscript on time. Latifah doesn't do anything that we see to make that happen, besides lay out some index cards and give Emma Thompson informational packets about nicotine gum. Emma Thompson is obsessed with death, and it is not presented in a subtle way.
One problem with the movie is that our hero is basically a robot. Will Ferrell doesn't have any interests, or friends, or hobbies, or free will. He's basically a robot, albeit a robot who sometimes pees into a plastic bottle, based on a questionable interpretation of Dustin Hoffman's advice.
He also falls in love with Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays a wacky baker. Their big romantic breakthrough is based on two absurd premises:
1. Maggie dropped out of Harvard Law School to become an anarchist baker, because she used to make cookies for study sessions, and everyone really loved them.
2. Will Ferrell has never eaten a homemade cookie.
At first, I thought, "Of course he hasn't eaten a homemade cookie - he's only a fictional character!" Would this be a comment on his unsettled fictional past? Would he realize that his own personal history was dependent solely on an author's whim? Nope. It turns out that Will Ferrell's mom only ever bought store-bought cookies. What a scene!
Will Emma Thompson kill her fictional character, who's actually sort of a real person, but maybe still fictional? Will Queen Latifah get her to finish the book on time on with her tough-talking no-nonsense ways? Will Maggie Gyllenhaal fall in love with Ferrell, even though he's an IRS agent who's auditing her? Will Dustin Hoffman take his shirt off for no reason? Will two completely random characters show up for the film's conclusion and still end up in the final montage? Will Louise complain about Maggie Gyllenhaal's poor acting and flirtatious, inappropriately-sexual anarchist-baking style? You'd have to go see the movie to find out, but you really shouldn't see it, so I'll answer those questions after the jump:
1. No, and I guess he's ultimately sort of real?
2. Yes, though she asks for a no-nonsense extension of time.
3. Yes, and even the audit's OK, except she intentionally got audited, so maybe she's going to intentionally underpay her taxes again? Oh anarchist bakers, will you ever learn?
4. Yes. Not looking too bad, that Dustin Hoffman.
5. Yes. They both get big, big hugs, too.
6. Yes, and with good cause.
What was the theme of Stranger Than Fiction?
Louise: I learned a valuable lesson about valuing compassion for other human beings over beautiful writing.
Sean: You shouldn't murder someone just so Queen Latifah won't miss a deadline.