I have a soft spot for movies about writers and love stories. I also have a great appreciation for mixing supernatural elements into the mundane and banal to make a relatably extraordinary story. Stranger Than Fiction does all of the above.
- First, I wanted to comment on the fantastically integrated line/text visuals. The text is a moving part of the opening scenes as the narrator describes Harold Crick's daily routine. Along with a clean look and an engaging effect, such a presentation serves as the element of the writer's thoughts/world merging with the real life of Harold Crick. In other word, the core gimmick of the film is exhibited on a smaller scale right from the start.
- Writers are special in that they tend to be very self aware yet driven to communicate as if there is no audience. At least, this accurately describes some of the writers I've met in my experience as a creative writing English major. At times we can be torn between telling a story as straight forward as possible and breaking that wall explaining everything to the audience. It's experiences like this and many others that are exemplified in the film. The watch that seems to guide Harold's life in one direction or another is in fact Karen Eiffel vigilant watch on her "fictional" character.
- After Harold visits professor Hilbert, the floodgate of literary terms and concepts become a focus of the film. As strange as it sounds, the professor doesn't think twice about analyzing Harold's circumstances with a literary eye; "that sounds like a comedy... try to develop that." By bringing these terms to the forefront, the audience and Harold are on the same self aware space that writers often fill their heads with. The small book of notes that Harold keeps to determine if he's in a comedy or a tragedy is not only hilarious, but also very relatable; "I think I'm in a tragedy." While others might list pros and cons in a very "she loves me she loves me not" fashion, Crick gores through a sort of hands on literary investigation.
- Writers living on the edge of life pushing their craft and self expression to the limit is not a foreign concept. We've all heard of the term "starving artist." I even wrote a poem to this effect about writers, smoking, and blowing smoke. The fact that Ms. Eiffel smokes and that her frail demeanor changes as she decides to preserve Harold's life while sacrificing her own career hits home. In case you didn't realize it, writing is a matter of life and death. At least, that's how seriously some writers take it. Though it may seem obvious, I can't help but think that this movie was written by a real writer. And by a real writer, I mean someone who doesn't add scenes and elements into a screen play based on what sells trying to reach the widest audience possible to make the most money possible.
- The film is strangely unique. The performances all fit together nicely. And unlike Will Ferrell's other movies, he is very tame in Stranger Than Fiction. The dialog is very simple as well. It's so simple that it brings even more focus on the supernatural, tongue in cheek, self aware writing about being in a fictional story at the mercy of some unknown writer.
- Good writers have a keen sense of details and how they all add up to a result. The line the doctor gives at the end is very reflective of this fact; "you'll just have a piece of watch embedded in your arm for the rest of your life." Like the mundane, banal life that Harold lead at the beginning of the film, aside form the whole wrecking ball heavy handed authorial intervention, Harold really learns to live because of small details and choices. Like professor Hilbert says, "nuances, anomalies, and subtleties save our lives." I couldn't agree more.