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Stranger than Fiction

Stranger than Fiction

4.5 38
Director: Marc Forster

Cast: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman


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A socially isolated IRS agent whose every move is documented by a disembodied female voice discovers that his life is the subject of a book currently being written by a best-selling author, whose creative block has stunted her repeated efforts to kill him off, in a quirky fantasy comedy written by Hollywood hot property Zach Helm and


A socially isolated IRS agent whose every move is documented by a disembodied female voice discovers that his life is the subject of a book currently being written by a best-selling author, whose creative block has stunted her repeated efforts to kill him off, in a quirky fantasy comedy written by Hollywood hot property Zach Helm and directed by Finding Neverland's Marc Forester. Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) lives a life of solitude. Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) can't seem to find a way to finish her latest book. Though Harold and Kay have never actually met, their fates are about to become intertwined in a most unusual manner. With her publishers growing increasingly impatient with her apparent inability to put the finishing touches on her latest novel, Kay is assigned a new assistant whose task it is to help provide the creative push needed to get her book finished and into the hands of her many eager fans. The subject of Kay's novel is a lonely and despairing IRS agent named Harold Crick, who believes that his life has lost any real meaning. As Kay continues to weave Harold's woeful tale without realizing that her protagonist is actually a living human being unable to concentrate on his life and career due to the constant interference of the narrator who inexplicably seems to anticipate his every move and read his every thought, her continued efforts to kill her perplexed subject finally provide him with the incentive needed to fully experience life by seeking out the source of the voice that plagues him. Penned by the screenwriter named by Variety magazine as one of the "Top Ten Writers to Watch" and who was also included in Esquire magazine's "Best and Brightest" list of 2004, Stranger Than Fiction features supporting performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
A reality-bending comedy in the mold of Being John Malkovich, Marc Forster's Stranger than Fiction does something quite remarkable: It gives Will Ferrell the least annoying character he's ever played on film. The Saturday Night Live alumnus here portrays Internal Revenue Service functionary Harold Crick, whose solitary and desperately dull existence is interrupted one day by the sound of a voice talking about his life as though it were part of a story. And indeed it is. Eccentric novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) is struggling to complete her latest book, and Harold has become her protagonist. When, in a bit of foreshadowing, she writes that he will soon be dead, Harold understandably freaks out. He undertakes a race against time to find the author before she can create the fatal scene, and in the process he becomes more attuned to life and its endless possibilities. Ferrell plays this role with deadpan earnestness, and under Forster's direction he turns in a carefully modulated performance. Thompson is marvelously dotty as the writer, and Dustin Hoffman and Maggie Gyllenhaal lend strong support as a professor of literature and Harold’s girlfriend, respectively. The script by Zach Helm, clearly influenced by the work of Charlie Kaufman, never really tries to address its inherent ridiculousness, but ultimately that doesn't matter. It's a clever piece of work, exceptionally well interpreted by Forster.
All Movie Guide
It's a great movie no matter how you look at it, but it's hard not to notice that Stranger Than Fiction is the best movie Charlie Kaufman never wrote. The story-within-a-story-within-a-story premise smacks of the über-meta style Kaufman brought to Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) awakens one day to find that he is, in fact, the main character in a novel being written by an eccentric, chain-smoking writer named Karen Eiffel, played by Emma Thompson. This is where we would expect the narrative to start nose-diving towards meta-land; the movie's story is Harold's story, but Harold's story is apparently Karen's story. If Charlie Kaufman were writing the script, this is where he himself would make his appearance because the whole thing is, in fact, the screenwriter's story. But lucky for us, Stranger Than Fiction's actual writer, Zach Helm, hits the ball out of the park on this point: he stays out of it. The film turns out to be a classic (classic meaning enduring, not meaning a pseudonym for trite) tale about the self-imprisonment of modern-life, about the value of companionship, and about the joy of infinite possibilities. The wild premise -- while always entertaining -- eventually takes a back seat to Crick and his existential adventure. This is another area where the film bears a strong resemblance to a Kaufman project, as Will Ferrell's uncharacteristically sensitive, intimate performance is very reminiscent of the way funnyman Jim Carrey did the same thing in Eternal Sunshine. Watching a loud-mouthed comedic actor keep it "reeled-in" has novelty, but Ferrell does a lot more than that here. He proves he can really act, portraying Harold with more than enough love and authenticity for us to pull for him as he falls in love with the feisty, anti-establishment pastry chef he's auditing (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Harold pursuing a romance with the ill-tempered baker becomes just one of many ways in which he tries to make the story of his life into something he's proud of. It may sound hard to believe, but as the movie progresses, the fact that key elements of Harold's life are being decided by they keystrokes of a reclusive novelist becomes fairly easy to accept. By the end, Harold's sweet, unpretentious, and extremely poignant story doesn't belong to screenwriter Zach Helm or even to Karen Eiffel, it's just Harold's and, by extension, ours.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Deleted scenes; Funny on-set moments; Multiple behind the scenes featurette

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Will Ferrell Harold Crick
Maggie Gyllenhaal Ana Pascal
Dustin Hoffman Professor Jules Hilbert
Queen Latifah Penny Escher
Emma Thompson Karen 'Kay' Eiffel
Tony Hale Dave
Tom Hulce Doctor Cayly
Linda Hunt Doctor Mittag-Leffler
William Dick IRS Co-Worker 1
Guy Massey IRS Co-Worker 2
Martha Espinoza IRS Co-Worker 3
T.J. Jagodowski IRS Co-Worker 4
Peter Grosz IRS Co-Worker 5
Ricky Adams Young Boy
Christian Stolte Young Boy's Father
Denise Hughes Kronecker Bus Driver
Peggy Roeder Polish Woman
Tonray Ho IRS Co-Worker 6
Danny Rhodes Bakery Employee 1
Helen Young Bakery Customer 1
David Pompeii Bakery Customer 2
Linara Washington Bakery Employee 2
Larry Neumann Homeless Man
John Mohrlein Man With Hose
Bruce Jarchow Commuter
Kristin Chenoweth Book Channel Host
Bradley Mott Large Man on Bus
John Watson TV Author
David Wiegers Bakery Customer 3
Jarret Sleeper Bakery Customer 4
Karen Lloyd Customer With Tan
Keith Kupferer Demolition Foreman
Danny McCarthy Demoliton Crew
Tab Baker Demolition Crew
Mark Buettner Claw Operator
Christian Young ER Doctor 1
Arraon Hixson Young Male Patient
Bryan Kelly ER Orderly
Whitney Sneed ER Nurse 1
Ray Kurut ER Doctor 2
Michael Cook ER Doctor 3
Cheryl Lynn Bruce Head ER Nurse
Chet Dubowski Man in Tweed
Oran "Juice" Jones Banneker Press Receptionist
Jordan Keller Grocer
Herb Lichtenstein IRS Co-Worker 7
Stacey Jackson IRS Co-Worker 8
Jordan Teplitz Old Man on Phone
Ricardo Guiterrez Bus Company Manager
James Mazza Irritated Man on Bus
Oscar Roxas Another Man on Bus
Nadiera Bost Accident Witness
Sandra Marquez Accident Witness
Lacy Coil Accident Witness
Will Clinger Accident Witness
Albert Samuels Accident Witness
Frank Caeti Accident Witness
Andrew Rothenberg Doctor Mercator
Rengin Altay Nurse
Lucinda Kemp Bus Operator
Donna Watkins Bus Operator
Julien Heron Animal Footage Voiceover
Bob Papenbrook Animal Footage Voiceover
Mike McColl Animal Footage Voiceover

Technical Credits
Marc Forster Director
Matt Chessé Editor
Britt Daniel Score Composer
Lindsay Doran Producer
Joe Drake Executive Producer
Kathleen Driscoll-Mohler Casting
Frank Fleming Costumes/Costume Designer
Ron Goodman Cinematographer
Edward Gutentag Camera Operator
Kevin Tod Haug Cinematographer
Zach Helm Screenwriter
Aubrey Henderson Co-producer
Lora Hirschberg Sound Mixer
Craig Jackson Art Director
Nathan Kahane Executive Producer
Eric Kopeloff Executive Producer
Michael Lerman Asst. Director
Ted Lichtenheld Cinematographer
Francine Maisler Casting
Jim McConkey Camera Operator
Scott Millan Sound Mixer
Jimmy Miller Co-producer
Roger Neill Score Composer
Sean O'Reilly Cinematographer
David Obermeyer Sound Mixer
Paskal,Tenner & Rudnicke Casting, Inc. Casting
Brian Reitzell Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Geoffrey G. Rubay Sound/Sound Designer
Kerry Sanders Set Decoration/Design
Roberto Schaefer Cinematographer
Michael Semanick Sound Mixer
Kevin Thompson Production Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Stranger Than Fiction
1. Before Wednesday [3:43]
2. Extraordinary Day [5:36]
3. The Baker [4:03]
4. Talking Leaps [4:44]
5. Trees Are Trees [2:03]
6. Alarming News [4:30]
7. Little Did He Know [3:31]
8. Transit Encounter [3:33]
9. Ruling Out the Possibilities [3:15]
10. Comedy or Tragedy [5:17]
11. Harold the Tax Guy [1:26]
12. Milk and Cookies [5:47]
13. Harold's Day Off [4:54]
14. The Plot Thickens [4:18]
15. Musical Conviction [4:13]
16. Breaking the Protocol [3:30]
17. Making Music [3:57]
18. Significant Moments [3:38]
19. Writer's Resolution [4:37]
20. Critical Call [5:39]
21. Avoiding Chance [2:25]
22. Poetic Masterpiece [3:14]
23. Entertaining Ideas [4:05]
24. Sharing Secrets [2:30]
25. Unthinkable Error [3:35]
26. Life Choices [3:33]
27. Making Sense [1:22]
28. Finding Cookies [9:42]


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Stranger than Fiction 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
STRANGER THAN FICTION is one of the more wise, conceptually stunning, finely executed original films to come to the screen in a long time. How this little gem of a film went unnoticed by the Academy is anyone's guess, but viewers' alert: spend an evening viewing this film and new standards for excellence will be set for you. Director Marc Forster ('Finding Neverland', 'Monster's Ball', 'Stay', 'Everything Put Together') is a director of vision, a man unafraid to tackle testy topics, and a genius at pacing a film with a keen collaborative eye with his cinematographer, his editor, his set designer, his casting director, and his actors. Taking the chance of working with first time writer Zach Helm (a gifted artist whose niche in the business is already secure with this first venture) and assembling a cast of some of our finest actors proves successful in every graphically odd twist and turn of this unusual, compelling and unclassifiable story. Harold Crick (Will Ferrell - finally given a role in which he can prove that he is an actor and not just a foolish pratfall comedian) is a boring, number obsessed IRS agent whose every moment of every day is timed to be exactly the same (with the important co-existence with his wrist watch!)...until one day he hears a voice narrating his life, the female voice of loopy and blocked writer Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who is writing a story that has a 'Harold Crick' as her main character. Only our boring IRS agent can hear her voice: his loony office friend Dave (Tony Hale) empathizes but can do little else to help him. When the narrator begins to talk about ending 'Harold's' life, Harold freaks and seeks guidance from a literature professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman, in one of his most subtle and refined roles of his career) who knows Eiffel's work and aids Harold in understanding novels, be they comedy or tragedy. Harold also seeks the advice of psychiatrist Dr. Mittag-Leffler (the always superb Linda Hunt) who is of little help, and Dr. Cayly (Tom Hulce) who repairs all upsets with hugs. Meanwhile in his work of auditing citizens he encounters anti-government baker Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal, once again proving that she is one of the most formidable talents in film today), and a bizarre but tender attraction slowly ensues. And all this time novelist Kay Eiffel is struggling with how to 'kill Harold' so that she can complete her novel. Her publisher sends in 'assistant' Penny Escher (Queen Latifah) to ground her and guide her to her novel's completion by helping her observe hospital disasters, vantages, and steadying her grip on life. The manner in which the novel is finished which involves the ultimate fate of Harold and the changes the narration of the novel have had on his life makes up the resolution of the story. And a cleverly written conclusion it is. Zach Helm is obviously a brilliant, well-informed writer who knows how to balance comedy and tragedy, crises of life with the little things that count, and can mold conversations so subtle that they beg to be rewound to enjoy the words repeatedly. Forster wisely uses graphic superimpositions of numbers and graphs and lines to show us the inside of Harold's intriguing mind, all the while allowing us to draw close to the needy and tender aspect of this nerd of nerds, thus making the involvement with his narrator, his girlfriend Ana, and his doctors and professor wholly credible. Some people (this viewer being one) avoided this film in the theaters because of the fear that it may be just another Will Ferrell bit of foolishness: over the top slapstick physical comedy that grows stale after about five minutes. But Will Ferrell here opens an important new door for his career: he can act! The ensemble cast could not be improved upon and it is refreshing to see the widely disparate types of actors gathered here work as a cohesive and impeccable unit. Added to the DVD is about an hour's worth of featurettes that are, for onc
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BeYourOwnReason More than 1 year ago
It's apparent from the first few scenes that the plot/story is unique, creative, and intelligent. Writers, filmmakers, and creatives of all types will appreciate the smart plot. The entire cast is fantastic, but two performances deserve to be highlighted. Will Ferrell is dynamic and hits the ball out of the park with a wonderful performance that showcases his dramatic chops - his range is absolutely awesome. Emma Thompson delivers another standout performance that every writer can appreciate. She takes you on that emotional roller coaster of creativity that can mysteriously creep up on anyone involved in some aspect of the arts and does it brilliantly as only she can. The visual effects deserve to be mentioned as well because the graphics are integral to helping to drive the story and because they are absolutely phenomenal. This film provides entertainment and gives the viewer something to reflect upon. Kudos and hip hip hooray to a gem of a film that is pure joy!
Nati_Kathleen More than 1 year ago
This movie would get confusing at times, but I actually liked it. One of the reasons why I liked it is probably because Will Ferrell was portraying a serious character. He wasn't supposed to be funny for once. And that showed me that he can be both types of actor. I honestly respect him more when he's playing a serious character. Out of the movies I've seen with him being funny and this one, this one is my favorite. It's because, with no due respect, when he tries to be funny, it sometimes isn't successful. It won't make me laugh. It's kind of like a "whatever" state of mind. I actually respect him more as a serious character. Like, Jim Carrey, that guys is HILARIOUS! That's his natural way of acting. That's who he is. It just comes right through him to be funny. When he plays a serious character, like in The Majestic, he succeeds tremendously. That isn't always the case with Will. Anyway, overall, I liked this movie, can't wait to see Will playing a serious character more often, and would recommend it to everyone to watch. :0)
Guest More than 1 year ago
will Ferrell is the funniest man alive, okay in Toronto City. All his movies are funny, really interesting and great to have watch while you have Thanskgiving. I'd love to make him more than one baby only-only if he wasn't married already with kids of eight.
John_McKoy More than 1 year ago
In Stranger Than Fiction one encounters a completely different Will Farrell than the usual off-the-wall farcical comedian. Farrell's Harold Crick leads the mundane life of an IRS agent who meticulously calculates every aspect of his life from how many brush strokes he uses while brushing his teeth to how many steps it takes him to get from his apartment in unnamed downtown Chicago area to his nearby office. As Harold begins his daily routine one seemingly normal Wednesday morning, a voice begins narrating everything Harold does. As Harold searches for answers he encounters many unique characters, including a hilariously dry Dustin Hoffman who plays Jules Hilbert, a literature professor who tries to help Harold figure out if he is a character in a comedy or tragedy. Taking the professor's advice, Harold begins living his life with passion and starts doing things he has always wanted to do, like learning how to play the guitar. Along the way Harold takes a quite unexpected interest in one of his auditees, a free-spirited baker named Ana Pascal played by the lovely Maggie Gyllenhaal, who helps Harold discover who he really is and why his life isn't so mundane after all. The author of Harold's story, unknown to Harold, is an acclaimed author named Karen Eiffel (played by Emma Thompson) who is notorious for killing off all of the main characters in her novels. Eiffel struggles to find a way to end her book and kill Harold, but finally she comes up with a solution. In the end both Eiffel and Harold Crick realize how beautiful life really is and that it is the small, seemingly unimportant things, that make life worth living. This surprisingly fresh and unique film is a thoughtful and light-hearted examination of living life the way it should be lived and enjoying every moment. The film is characterized by the splendid use of art and architecture in every scene which adds a nice visual bonus to an already well written script and talented cast. Director Mark Forster (Monster Ball, Finding Neverland) offers a truly unique tale that will elicit laughter and tug at your heartstrings with its believable characters and clever storyline. And when the movie is over the DVD still offers must see special features. With these features you can see the funny on-set moments with the always outrageous Will Farrell that will make you wet your pants. Not only does the DVD offer deleted and extended scenes, but also behind the scenes featurettes of how the movie was made and unique commentaries from the actors and the producers of the film. This feature allows the viewer to see the beautiful sets and backdrops used in downtown Chicago and the Mies van der Rohe architecture so unique to the landscape. The DVD allows the viewer the whole experience by offering high definition widescreen which makes the color of the unique backdrops a treat for the eyes and Dolby digital surround sound for the movie theatre sound experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this movie! I saw it twice when it was still in the theaters. I love the characters, especially Emma Thompson. I like the story, the plot, and the moral of the story. It's witty, sad, and it just gives you a good feelin' of happiness.
Jay_Godzilla_fan More than 1 year ago
I was super impressed with this. made me sad laugh and everything. the way the two charecters fall for eachother being so diferent was cool. this movie was good! GOOD!
TulaneGirl More than 1 year ago
This movie is such an overlooked movie. The premise is very original and the movie itself is very engaging. The viewer ends up personally invested in Harold's well-being.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I usually love comedies, but this one wasn't all that funny. Will Ferrell played a serious character, and maybe that was part of the problem. I kept thinking that the movie was bound to get better and that Ferrell's character would lighten up a little- I was disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie shows Will Ferrell in a light similar to the light that The Truman Show showed Jim Carrey. Here we have an actor known for silly (sometimes stupid) comedies giving an outstanding performance. Supporting cast Thompson, Hoffman, and Gyllenhaal are also excellent in this highly original film.
tommygrrl723 More than 1 year ago
Simply put: This movie is for booklovers. As I watched this movie, I found myself caring for the characters so much that I was on the edge of my seat to see what happens to them. I laughed, I cried, and everything in-between. This is a wonderful film with an interesting premise, great actors, and wonderful performances. I Loved It!
Kimmiee More than 1 year ago
The cast is great. Not to mention the creative and interesting plot. Will Ferrell is my hero. This may not be for everyone, but for anyone who can enjoy a creative and emotionally charged story, this one will not let down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is amazing. The plot is to die for (no pun intended) and the acting is great. I enjoyed it very much.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie!! Some did not like this movie but before you decide Watch the movie for you self! I got lost in it like I was there while Watching!!! Great Actors !!! Made you feel like you knew them as friends!!! Great actors!!! Just a nice movie with a lot of substance. Will watch again soon!!!
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