Since I just mini-ranted about 24 in my previous post, I want to take part of my lunch hour toÂ mini-rave aboutÂ the absolutely marvelous Stranger Than Fiction that apparently came and went last year just long enough for me to read aÂ brief good reviewÂ in Entertainment Weekly or the L.A. Weekly and put it on my Netflix list.
I need to admit that I hadÂ huffed andÂ puffedÂ after the last Will Ferrell comedy I’d seen (Anchorman, I believe) and sworeÂ never to bother with another one (disclosure: Talladega Nights is somewhere down deep on my Netflix list).
So with little real knowledge ofÂ Stranger Than Fiction’s subject matter or plot I put my faith and hope in itsÂ atypical Will Ferrell-starring titleÂ and Susan and I spun it in the DVD player this weekend with fingers crossed that it wasn’t the same stuff that it seemed Ferrell was more than happy to poop out again and again (Blades of Glory anyone?).
And it isn’t. Far from it. Quirky and smart and touching and wholly original and to me very Charlie Kaufman-esque, the film (written by Zach Helm and beautifully envisioned by director Marc Forster and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer) affords Ferrell a chance to put away his usual one-note affable shtickÂ and deliver aÂ brilliant and marvelouslyÂ nuanced performance as a seemingly ill-fated and lovestruck IRS auditor, well aided by aÂ fantastic supporting castÂ that includesÂ Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Queen LatifahÂ (even a goofy cameo by a basically unrecognizable Tom Hulce).
What’s tragic about Stranger Than Fiction is that the boffo box office’s worth of ticket buyers* who always seem to support hisÂ redundant andÂ one-dimensionalÂ comedy stylings (however amiable and goofy they are)Â didn’t really care toÂ look underneath all that silliness and find not only a fine and intelligent film but Ferrell proving heÂ is one terrific actor who can make reign it all in andÂ make youÂ laugh and cry at the same time.
*According to the Rotten Tomatoes websiteÂ Anchorman
made $84 million and, while Stranger Than Fiction
only brought in $40 million.
It was a welcome relief that Ferrell couldÂ reverse enginesÂ andÂ bring out such a restrained and memorable performance. And whenever I get around to watching Talladega Nights ($148 million) I’ll be doing my best to remember it and hope for more.