If movies were soft drink, Stranger Than Fiction would be Diet Kaufman.
It has the imaginative plot, the touches of the surreal, the wry comedy of the Charlie Kaufman school of film-making, yet Marc Forster’s dramatically black comedy is missing that extra bit of punch.
The concept is genius – writer Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson, wearing no make-up) is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block in the matter of killing off her main character, not realising that said character is a real person – Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). And here’s the kicker – he can hear her narration in his head.
Yet the film is riddled with too many plot holes. How do we account for the events that Eiffel is not narrating? Why on earth would Maggie Gyllenhaal’s socially defiant baker fall for an IRS auditor that looks like Will Ferrell?
These, and other questions, are not answered in the quest for finding some sort of human truth that tugs at the heartstrings and makes us laugh. Yet neither of these are done in adequate measure.
That’s not to say it’s a bad film – it’s entertaining and has quite a number of brilliant moments; the acting is outstanding (Dustin Hoffman’s literary professor, especially, is wonderful) – but there’s just something missing. Something that could have moved this experience from the cautiously engaging into the truly rousing.