Thursday, July 26, 2007

Queue Flashback: Stranger Than Fiction

I gave up watching movie trailers years ago because I got so sick of seeing every single detail of the plot before I actually saw the movie. What's the point of watching the actual movie when you just saw it all in a neat thirty-second capsule? It maddens me. So whenever we go to the movie theater I close my eyes and hum over the previews in the hopes of drowning them out. And when we’re at home and a trailer plays on TV I lunge out of the room screaming at Grant, “Turn it! Turn it! Turn it!” Our neighbors must think we’re a kinky lot.

All of this fuss to avoid trailers usually means that I get to actually enjoy the movies I watch because they’re truly original to me. But occasionally it backfires because knowing nothing about a film means I am often left to judge them solely on the idle chit-chat I’ve heard about them. That was the fate of Stranger Than Fiction. I heard the words “Will Ferrell in a serious role” and I was backing away as though someone had just said, “Britney Spears stars as Margaret Thatcher in this epic political saga…”

Why, Will? Why? Why can’t you funny men just stay funny? Did Chevy Chase poison the well so you all think it’s important to make this leap? I don’t need you to act in serious roles, Will. That’s why god invented Sean Penn. I don’t need you to play a romantic lead, Mr. Ferrell. That’s why god (blessedly) invented Viggo Mortensen and Daniel Craig. And most importantly, Mr. Ferrell, your body hair makes me uncomfortable. I’m sorry, but it’s true. There’s too much of it and it’s VERY CURLY. In a comedy, it’s funny. But in a drama, it makes me feel like I just found a kinky dark hair in my salad. Yes, that kind of hair. AND I DON’T CARE FOR IT.

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Gillenhall? Gyylenhaal? Ever heard of a stage name, Maggie?) plays the romantic lead opposite Will Ferrell. She plays the mother-love-earth local baker who spends her days feeding the homeless and caretaking for neighborhood vagrants. I’d like to know why my neighborhood baker isn’t like this. Mine charges $2.75 for a miniscule glass of iced tea and has never once offered me a free croissant even though I cheerfully respond in French when they give me a dour Bon Jour each day.

My point, and I think I had one, is that Maggie G’s character is painfully flat and one-dimensional. And she looks like a teenager which made the whole love-interest-with-Will’s-curly-hair thing a little uncomfortable to me. I guess I should be happy that someone with such a low-profile and an everywoman face is getting cast in plumb roles but I’m not. I think the Gyllenhaal’s are shifty. Maggie and Jake remind me of the White Stripes and I’m pretty sure they’re related but still sleeping with one another and once again, it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe I should have called this blog “things that make me uncomfortable.”

One great piece of casting in this film is Emma Thompson as the narrator of Will Ferrell’s life. I know that’s not saying much since Madame Thompson is pretty much terrific in every film. I have a secret desire for Emma Thompson to phone me up and invite me over to her house to drink manhattans and leaf through old issues of OK! Magazine while we make fun of that tart Sienna Miller. I have always felt a certainty that we’d get along famously. This must be how stalkers start rationalizing their behavior. Consider this your warning, Ms. Thompson.

Anyway, Stranger Than Fiction is actually a pretty sweet little film and I have to admit that if you can get past all the curliness, Will Ferrell is charming in a pseudo-straight role. You proved your point, Ferrell. Now let’s get back to the comedies, okay? Surely someone is floating a script out there about the competitive Badminton world.

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