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Movie Review

Stranger Than Fiction

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity

Reviewed by: Susan Quirk
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Length:
1 hr. 53 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
November 10, 2006
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Sony Pictures Entertainment

Suicide, what does the Bible say? Answer

If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Featuring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Tony Hale, Tom Hulce, Kristin Chenoweth, Queen Latifah
Director: Marc Forster
Producer: Nathan Kahane, Joe Drake, Eric Kopeloff
Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment

“Harold Crick isn’t ready to go. Period.”

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is a man who lives by his wristwatch. In the finite world he has created for himself, his life is separated into well ordered increments of timeslots and activities. He brushes his thirty-six teeth the same number of strokes each morning and walks the same number of steps to catch the same bus to his job as an auditor at the IRS. All is well, until he begins to hear a narrator’s voice (Emma Thompson) in his head who is evidently writing his life as a work of tragic fiction. Harold seeks the advice of a literary professor (Dustin Hoffman) who works to identify the author of the story in an attempt to help Harold regain control over his life and his sanity.

“Little does he know” the author of Harold’s life, Kay Eiffel is a morose writer with an obsession with death. When Harold is clued into the imminence of his death on the page, he determines to fight this death sentence and consequently upsets the repetitive and mundane nature he has imposed on his own life. In his attempt to wrest the narration of his life into his own hands, Harold takes his first vacation, learns how to play the electric guitar, eats his first cookie, and courts the bohemian baker, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he meets while auditing her for tax evasion.

As a Christian, there was much to applaud in the messages put forth in “Stranger Than Fiction.” Harold was caught up in the easiest, and most selfish trap in life—to plod along not noticing others for fear of unsettling one’s own routine. Harold learns to look deeply in between the strictly composed lines of his life and realizes this is where unexpected joy is found. He also accepts the conclusion that he wants his life to be a great story, which may mean sacrificing his life for the life of another. Harold realizes his life must intercept the story in other peoples’ lives to truly live.

Viewers need to be warned of some profanity, the delineation of Harold’s lustful thoughts toward Ms. Pascal, Ms. Pascal’s accusation of Harold starring at her breasts, one exclamation of the “F” word, several exclamations of “oh, my god,” and a useless scene in a men’s locker room which results in male rear nudity. Additionally, author, Kay Eiffel’s fantasies about death and suicide are graphically shown on film.

More problematic for the Christian viewer is Harold’s sexual relationship with Ana Pascal, indicated by passionate kissing and waking up in her bed. Harold is obviously not a promiscuous man, and it is unfortunate the writer of this script equated sexual expression outside of marriage as a positive progression of Harold’s enlightenment and empowerment in his life. The scenes illustrating Harold conquering his insecure and self-oriented personality provided the more poignant message of victory in Harold’s life, and the sexual relationship actually deterred from this point.

Harold Crick’s problem was not that he was always keeping his eye on the time, it was that he was spending his time on the wrong things. The wristwatch was not the problem, but actually served as a reminder to spend his precious minutes on the right things. “Stranger Than Fiction” ends with two surprisingly strong messages that are impossible to find fault with. Jesus said in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Both Harold Crick and the author of his character, Kay Eiffel are put to this test. In Matthew 16:25, Jesus states: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” God longs to send this message to mankind and strangely enough, the secular movie “Stranger Than Fiction” gives us a small glimpse of this beautiful truth.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This was a good review. I agree with the rating and perspective. This movie handles an intriguing and very peculiar story very well. I had no idea Will Ferrell was such a good serious actor. His performance of Harold was filled with subtle nuances and shades of emotion. The story line was morose, because of the threat of imminent death, but the film culminates in the theme of the wonder of life and the gift of life that God gives us.
My Ratings: Average / 4
Halyna Barannik, age 60
Positive—I got to go to this movie for my birthday, and I really enjoyed it. We recently saw “Click” with Adam Sandler, and this kind of reminded me of that movie. The idea of taking a look at your life and evaluating if you’re really living it. To quote a great song by Switchfoot—“This is your life, are you who you want to be?” “Stranger than Fiction” was funny, sad, moving, and, best of all, not very predictable, despite the fact that they show way too much on the previews (when are they going to stop doing that??!).
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Jessica, age 28
Positive—This movie was excellent, simply excellent! I have been to see many Will Farrell films and I must say it was nice seeing him take on a serious character; he suited Harold Crick perfectly! I didn’t notice much profanity in the film, and there wasn’t really anything demeaning or negative about any people. The author in the film constantly is fantasizing about how to kill a character in her book, although this is still done tastefully.

The only other objectable thing may be in the relationship area of the film. There is one scene of Harold looking at Ana and the narrator indicates that he is having fantasies about her. However, when the narrator begins speaking as Harold is staring at Ana in the shop, it states that Harold “was not prone” to fantasizing or having lustful thoughts. It is human nature to be attracted to someone though, and the scene was done much more tastefully than most movies would have made it.

To avid readers and people who devour literature, this film will be intriguing. As a student who loves writing, I found myself really connecting with the character of the author in her frenzy to find the perfect conclusion to her book. I don’t see too many movies that I want to recommend to my parents to see, since they get offended much more easily than I do. But I told them to go see it as soon as possible. There are many positive themes and messages, but like any good novel, it’s up to you, the reader/viewer to discover for yourself.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Chelan B, age 21
Positive—A pleasant surprise. “Stranger Than Fiction” is a romantic comedy, drama and fantasy all wrapped in one package. It is an original movie which delivers laughs, empathy and suspense. It is well written and well acted. And, as a bonus, there is little of the offensive content that riddles most films. Though it is not for kids, I can recommend “Stranger Than Fiction” to the discerning teen or adult. I really enjoyed this film and would see it again.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Todd Adams, age 39
Neutral
Neutral—Good movie overall. The part where the narrator describes Will F. imagining the girl naked was extremely unnecessary; but this movie was better than most movies in Hollywood. I would go see the movie again in the theater.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Amanda, age 22
Neutral—A very well directed and written story/tragedy/comedy, as well as acting cast. My compliments to character development which draws you in, and you begin to care for them from the beginning, as odd as some of the characters are. Unpredictable for the first half, then it fell into place as most other stories do (well, for me that is). This movie shines from a secular point of view. It incorporates every “good” feeling the world has to offer. And that is about it.

I have to admit, my expectations were high as we are picky about videos (however, last week we watched “GhostRider”… very inconsistent). I expected a storyline to take us beyond the humanist *everything is okay* *we are all living in this world and doing the best we can mentality* to a divine perspective, especially in dealing with the mortality of a man and another being who held his fate. This is where the water became suddenly shallow.

Without giving too much away, the movie gave you nothing in return. It offered little challenge from such a serious matter, and I felt rather betrayed by the notion that all the credit for everything that took place in all their lives went to an insignificant “thing.”

It offered very little in spiritual substance, except a mere mention of God in passing, and could have offered more in the broader aspect of the effect of Harolds life in others. The whole story became all about Harold and his death, when the makers of the film could have deepened the story and made it about others around him, and how Harolds entire life and life change brings about a complete change in those around him, including the 2 main figures directly involved in his accident and death. They glazed the surface of selflessness, but it just didn’t come through. The film was a big disappointment for me. A broader perspective could have delivered a remarkable film, but instead it will line the movie shelves with other *humanist, feel good for 2 hours and nothing more* movies.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4½
—D. Caine Calhoun, age 33
Neutral—Touched on theology, but never seemed to fully address intelligent issues. When the main character is told he has to die a certain way for the entertainment of others, it is implied that God is simply toying with people’s lives for His own amusement, without regard to our well-being. The viewer is told to stop worrying about death and start living, but in this world, that simply entails playing a guitar, having premarital sex, breaking tax laws, eating more cookies, not wearing a tie, and not counting your strokes when you brush your teeth. Once again, Hollywood says “live for yourself” / “follow your own path” rather than “live for God” / “follow His path.” A well made movie visually, though (the opening shot is simply jaw-dropping), and charming enough for a casual viewing.
My Ratings: Offensive / 3½
—Adam, age 24
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie was a very clever, funny, and original movie. This is not like most of Will Ferrell's funny movies, like “Anchorman,” because this one is a little bit dramatic, but overall this was a movie with great acting, and it was funny.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—Warren, age 15
Positive—“Stranger Than Fiction” was a very enjoyable movie with lots of funny parts. The movie had a different style of humor that is not used in most comedies. Dustin Hoffman did a great job acting out his part as the literature philosopher. The movie had a great message, and I would reccomend this movie.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4½
—William, age 15
Positive—This movie is definitely on the top of the “go and see right away” list. I never expected to see Will Ferrel in this type of movie. He did wonderfully. I can’t wait until I have this movie on DVD. There was an implied sex scene or two, but it really didn’t bother me that much—I mean once you find out he is about to kick the bucket, you can’t wait for him to find someone he loves (even if it is Maggie Gyllenhaal). Dustin Hoffman dropped the f-bomb, but what do you expect unbelievers to talk like? I loved the concept and the characters. I loved the whole movie, and you will too once you see it.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Emily, age 17
Positive—One of Will Ferrell's best! His character is so different than what he’s played in most of his other movies; I liked seeing this other side of him. All the other characters are well-played, and I like the ending. I’d recommend it for 13 and up, mostly because of the mild language.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Linda, age 16