Friday, March 02, 2007

Surprising Stranger

I do love film - I looove falling into a picture not knowing it is going to be fantastic... I love being visually entertained with hidden objects or elements within the frame that lead the observant viewer down a seperate yet interesting path than that of the laid out plot or story.

I love films that surprise me. "Stranger Than Fiction" surprised the hell out of me.

The film was released back in November, after a troubling showing at the Toronto Film festival (the festival that is supposed to let us all know what films will be the big critic and award winners of the year... but The Departed did not even play there this year), and somewhat limped it's way through a few weeks at the box office. It opened strong with $13 million, yet ended up with only a $40 million final haul in.

Cara had expressed interest in the film - ahhh but Jed, he was far to busy with Scorsese and DePalma to mess with the likes of Ferrell and Marc Forster. Thusly, the film was skipped (if only Cara would have pushed a little harder for what she wanted... c'est tragedie!!).

What a mis-caluculation.

Stranger Than Fiction steps to a tempo that PT Anderson and Peter Weir have danced to, charging their comedic leads (Sandler and Carrey) to step beyond their humorous performances to find the actor that may be hiding in them. The film's director also taps into Anderson and Weir's style, making an odd combination of the two talents. I guess I should be fair and pull Michel Gondry into this discussion - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind danced a similar number to this film!

The visual clues and games the film plays can slide on past the viewer with ease - there are no un-neccessary cuts or odd shots that make the film "artistic" - my excitement was in finding the images and trying to understand what relationship they played to the characters in the film. The picture above is one shot that definitely got my mind working...

What impressed me about Forster's work in the film is first, the monumental leap forward in direction (Finding Neverland was pretty useless) but also the astounding performances that he got out of his actors that inhabit the picture.

Emma Thompson stunned me in her work as Author Kay Eiffel - her determination to finish - her odd relationship with the world and the "characters" within it... here I mean relationship within Thompson's performance - not within the story.

Thompson absolutely shreds every moment of screen time she gets - going as far as stealing all of the energy that Hoffman can bring to a scene!!

I guess you cannot discuss the film without analyzing Will Ferrell's work. This was to be Ferrell's coming out party - "I AM AN ACTOR" - he cries from atop the mountain!

Well, yes he is - for 99% of the picture. He slips only for a few moments (one moment between him and Maggie Gyllenhaal) and that can be blamed on the director for not getting his scene right. Ferrell knocks some tough scenes way the hell out of the park... and yet, the performance is subduded and perfected. I am quite impressed.

So where the hell was it during the award season? Why did the critics just shrug it off as a misfire for Ferrell and crew? Who let this marvelous gem of a film slip behind the false joy of Little Miss Sunshine and all of the other unworthy contenders this year?

Well - I guess I did.

Shame on me.

And Cara for not making me see it.

Stranger Than Fiction = A