Monday, November 13, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

Clouded by misdirection
by Ryland Walker Knight

Hardly Novel

Will Farrell is Harold Crick, an IRS auditor with an obsessive compulsive knack for mathematics. Emma Thompson is Karen Eiffel, a neurotic and depressive writer who cannot finish her newest novel. Harold Crick is the protagonist of Karen Eiffel’s newest novel -- supposedly an unassuming everyman, living his everyday life in an anytown, unaware of his fate. But he is fully aware because he’s been hearing Eiffel narrate his day to day torpor and she’s spot on with every minute detail, like the sound of folders pulled across one another mimicking soft ocean waves cresting on a beach. Her novel is moot if he is aware of his “imminent death” because that hideous phrase “little did he know” is simply wrong: he knows plenty. STRANGER THAN FICTION is a movie, confused about its intent and clumsily executed at that. Zach Helm is a screenwriter, clever and witty and myopic. Marc Foster is a director, quick to telegraph the screenplay in an effort to streamline while undermining his committed cast’s roundly good performances with borrowed tricks and a meticulous art direction that serves only to distract.

[To read the rest of the review, click here and you will be forwarded to The House Next Door for the full article.]

02006: 113 minutes: dir. Marc Foster: written by Zach Helm


  1. Looks like the screenwriter is no Charlie Kaufman, but I wonder how Kaufman's tricksy scripts would have played without the benefit of subtle visionaries like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry.

    And imagine this script interpreted not by leadfooted Forster but, say, P.T. Anderson or David Gordon Green.

    And on the other shoe, imagine Seven directed by Michael Bay(!). High-concept scripts seem to do better in the hands of directors with a feather touch to complement locomotive storytelling chops.

    Forster has some arresting visual ideas, but his literal-mindedness is numbing.

  2. A worthy doubt. Spike Jonze has such a gift for visual storytelling, it's hard to imagine either screenplay being less than a success. However, I was not won over entirely by ETERNAL SUNSHINE and found its chief problems in the writing. For instance, why is it never addressed that the Kate Winslet in Jim Carrey's brain is not a real human but mere memory? He's trying to hide his ideal version of her, not the real deal. I found Soderbergh's SOLARIS a much more touching and effective exploration of a very similar conceit, only reversed. Has any critic drawn this parallel? I think it's worth investigating...

    As for the idea of this (STRANGER) script interpreted by PTA or DGG: yeah, that'd be lyrical. But I still think it would necessitate re-writes.

    Walter Chaw draws a parallel to Douglas Adams' novels in his review that I found surprisingly apt. But there's more humor and insight in Adams than anything to be found here. His writing was simple but effective. The voice over narration in this picture is simply redundant.

    Oh well. Regardless of all these problems with the movie, Will Farrell continues to prove he's the shit.

  3. Paul Schrader has a response to some of the criticism of his "Canon" article at:

    Also, part of the discussion on Schrader's canon from the a_film_by mailing list can be found here: