A film that can only be described in a way that sounds weird. Because it is. And that's exactly why I watched it.
Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an uninteresting man, doing a job that makes people hate him. His life is completely insignificant and mundane. Until he is interrupted one morning by a voice in his head. The voice continues to narrate his day to day life with an incredible insight until the penny drops. Harold Crick is a character in a book being written by the owner of this voice (Emma Thompson).
It flirts with ideas about destiny and fate, but the real thing of value that Stranger Than Fiction explores is the worthwhileness of life. Harold lives a dull and boring life until his revelation, and it's only once he learns of his ultimate fate that he actually starts living rather than simply existing. He meets someone his total opposite in Ana (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a psuedo-anarchist baker who refuses to pay her taxes and embarks on an adventure than departs from his IRS tax-man cubicle.
What with being a film about writing and how stories "have" to progress to "work properly" it's interesting in that, because it's very self-aware, you never quite know where it's going. As someone who has a great appreciation for tragedies, it ultimately left me very satisfied, but not in the most predictable way and I love it for it.
I like Stranger Than Fiction because, in a way it reminds me of Eternal Sunshine in what it achieves. I've always known Will Ferrell was a great comedian and good at playing a fool in his comedies, but much like Jim Carrey in ES, I now know he can act properly. Stranger Than Fiction is a comedy, but it's more of an ironic comedy than a gag-a-minute affair like Anchorman. On a lesser note, Maggie Gyllenhaal reminds me of Kate Winslet in ES in that Stranger Than Fiction reminds me that she can really act too. I've had an argument with a friend over Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes as Rachel in the latest Batman films: he argued it was a mistake because "Holmes is fitter" and I argued that Gyllenhaal is a much better actress, and now I've got something to cite to back up my claims because she's fantastic here.
A heartwarming comedy that took Will Ferrell's talents in a much different direction than usual and was made all the better for it. Some interesting writing that plays around with typical story telling and some brilliant casting makes for a film that's as contemplative as it is hilarious.