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November 15, 2006

Stranger than Fiction - 7

If someone were to write the book of your life, would you read the ending? Would your story be a comedy or a tragedy? Would it change your everyday decisions? The hypothetical becomes reality for Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) in this story that casts him as a character in novelist’s Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) latest novel. What begins as a strange and funny situation shift into a thought-provoking story of life’s meaning.
When Crick starts to hear the narration to his life as he is brushing his teeth, and follows the major events of his day, he starts to ponder the meaning behind both his mundane existence and the source of the voice. It seems mysterious, but maybe the psychiatrist is right, he is just schizophrenic. When the narrator suddenly reveals that he is unaware of his own “immanent death,” Crick’s search takes on a more urgent mode and he asks a local literature professor, Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), for help.
Hilbert tries to determine whether it is a comedy or tragedy. And advises Harold to see if the plot is driven by his life, or whether the plot is chasing him. While a serious situation, there doesn’t seem to be much either of them can do about it. Hilbert recommends he stop trying to avoid death and just live. The quality of the story is still in his hands.
In the midst of his angst, Harold does start to live life. He stops counting his steps and eating alone. Instead he pursues a relationship with Ana (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who seemed to loathe him when they meet while he was on a tax audit to her bakery shop. He learns about what he really loves- playing the guitar. If he can do nothing he is determined to make his last days meaningful.
But it is the chance event of his hearing the voice of the author on television that fundamentally changes the film. The chance to change the ending opens up a new line of questioning. Can the story really be changed? What is the responsibility of the author to a situation that is stranger than fiction? Does knowing the ending change our choices? Does it make our choices more meaningful?
This film is marketed as a comedy but it is in the questions about life’s deepest meaning that the tears come. Will Ferrell gives a great performance in this tender story that asks the great questions about life’s meaning, and our pursuit of the good life. The ending of the film and the story is perfect, and leaves the viewer more reflective about the decisions and story that is their life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Technology really has become one with our daily lives, and I think it is safe to say that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as the price of memory decreases, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I dream about all the time.

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