If you’re a regular reader, you might by now have guessed that, for the most part, I’m not really what they call an “early-adopter.” That’s why you will see reviews of things that are long since yesterday’s news. But I don’t care, I just want to share the things that resonate with me, particularly if that resonance lasts over time. And Stranger Than Fiction has become in my own personal iconography a long-term resonator.
Now, if it matters to you, I love the high-concept. I love it in movies, books and theatre. What is the high-concept? I think of it as ‘reality-tweaked.’ It’s our reality but with one aspect of it changed. When this works it, in a weird way, has a ring of truth about it. For instance, the movie BIG‘s high-concept is “a boy growing up overnight” and for me the reason it works is because if a kid really did grow up overnight, this is the kind of story that might actually happen. Other examples of this genre are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Time Traveller’s Wife, Purple Rose of Cairo, The 5th Life of the Cat Woman, Gods Behaving Badly, and Probable Future. Don’t quote me on any term papers or anything. This is the view of a non-expert here. I am singularly unqualified to be making any kind of definitions or classifications. This is for entertainment purposes only.
Back to my point. I love Stranger Than Fiction. I saw it on the day it was released in theatres. I bought the DVD the day that was released. I also own the shooting script, the soundtrack and the poster. I hope Zach Helm gets a healthy slice of all the dollars I’ve thrown his way.
These are just 10 of the ways in which I love Stranger Than Fiction:
1. It speaks about the power of art to affect our pereceptions and our lives.
2. It shows us that an artist can and should grow even if growing means they lose their mastery of what they’ve done before.
3. I love how he shows (creates? makes a case for?) a world where we are all inter-connected even to what we perceive as inanimate.
4. I love the wrecking ball slamming through the walls of his house — for me, a symbol of a changing consciousness.
5. I love how all the straight lines imprison Harold and all the circles free and save him. (Okay, that’s more about the filming than the writing, but it’s the writing that allows that kind of idea to spring forth from the original touchstone)
6. I love how in his script even the stage directions are poetic. Example on p.124 of the shooting script:
Suddenly she stops and looks at him. They stare at each other for a moment.
Her lips part
His fingers twitch
The skull in Hilbert’s carpets looks on (anxiously)
The manuscript reveals their lopsided fate
7. I love how the meeting with Ana on the bus is filmed–he sitting in the hinge of the bus so their shifting physicality mirrors the internal struggle of connecting. (Again, I know that’s the filming, refer to point 5)
8. I love the line “I may already be dead, just not typed.”
9. I love that the last 15 minutes make me weep every single time I watch it, particularly the last long voiced over monologue about all the things that save us. And who knew that Will Ferrell could actually act?
10. I love the idea that writing about something makes it real.
11. (Bonus) Oh, and I love the music.
So, in case you’re ego surfing Zach (and I would so not blame you if you are, why don’t you have a website yet?), let me increase my chances of you finding me. Zach Helm. Zach Helm. Zach Helm. My plea to you is to write the stage version of Stranger Than Fiction. I don’t know how you would stage a wrecking ball, but just leave that little problem to those brilliant stage designers. Maybe they can do it all with lighting. (Sorry, inside theatre joke). I want the stage version because I would be a second perfect choice to play Karen Eiffel. Emma Thompson (why does she have to be so good at everything she does? It really grates on my nerves) is obviously the first most perfect choice, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t bring something new to the role.
Maybe I’m already a celebrated actress, just not discovered yet.