Stranger Than Fiction

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The ViewHamilton Review

Review byMatthew Turner17/10/2006

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

Opens London Film Festival: 20th October

Brilliantly written, thoughtful and frequently hilarious comedy with impressive direction and terrific performances from the entire cast.

What's it all about?
Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, an average, mild-mannered tax investigator who wakes up one morning to find that he can hear a female voice narrating his every move. He soon discovers that he's a character in a novel and, worse, that the author (Emma Thompson) is planning to kill him off.

Harold seeks help from literary theorist Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), who suggests that he could change his fate by turning his story from a tragedy into a comedy and that he should try his luck with his attractive, tax-hating client, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Meanwhile, author Karen Eiffel (Thompson) struggles to find an ending for her book, unaware that Harold exists in the real world.

The Good
Essentially, this is Will Ferrell's Truman Show, both in terms of thematic content (a man breaking free of his controlled existence) and in the sense that it's not a typical Will Ferrell movie, but rather a proper acting role that could well net him an Oscar nomination. He gives a terrific performance, perfectly nailing the comic tone and displaying hitherto unsuspected dramatic depth.

The supporting cast are equally brilliant. Emma Thompson is perfect as the chain-smoking author and Maggie Gyllenhaal brings warmth and character to what is essentially an underwritten girlfriend part.

The Great
There's also strong support from Queen Latifah (as a publisher's assistant sent to help Karen) and Tony Hale (as Harold's colleague) but the stand-out is Dustin Hoffman, who's simply wonderful as Hilbert and nicks all the best lines.

Zach Helm's brilliant script is witty, inventive and ultimately moving. There are several wonderful scenes and the dialogue crackles with quotable lines.

Worth seeing?
In short, don't be put off if you're not a fan of Will Ferrell because you'll be missing out on one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.

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