Since I just mini-ranted about 24 in my previous post, I want to take part of my lunch hour to mini-rave about the absolutely marvelous Stranger Than Fiction that apparently came and went last year just long enough for me to read a brief good review in Entertainment Weekly or the L.A. Weekly and put it on my Netflix list.

I need to admit that I had huffed and puffed after the last Will Ferrell comedy I’d seen (Anchorman, I believe) and swore never to bother with another one (disclosure: Talladega Nights is somewhere down deep on my Netflix list).

So with little real knowledge of Stranger Than Fiction’s subject matter or plot I put my faith and hope in its atypical Will Ferrell-starring title 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 shtick and deliver a brilliant and marvelously nuanced performance as a seemingly ill-fated and lovestruck IRS auditor, well aided by a fantastic supporting cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Queen Latifah (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 his redundant and one-dimensional comedy stylings (however amiable and goofy they are) didn’t really care to look underneath all that silliness and find not only a fine and intelligent film but Ferrell proving he is one terrific actor who can make reign it all in and make you laugh and cry at the same time.

*According to the Rotten Tomatoes website  Anchorman
made $84 million and, while Stranger Than Fiction
only brought in $40 million.

It was a welcome relief that Ferrell could reverse engines and 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.