Culture Mini: Stranger than Fiction

“I just figured if I was going to make the world a better place, I would do it with cookies.” That is usually not what people say when they talk about changing the world.

For one thing, that’s not the answer that will win you the Miss USA title. Or Mr USA. Let’s not discriminate here, people. Cookies are rather commonplace after all, so how could they make a difference?

Still, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character Ana delivers that line with conviction … in Stranger than Fiction. (That rhyme was accidental, but I’ll keep it!)  In a movie that tries to subvert what we consider culturally significant, the cookies line isn’t a throw-away one.

On the other end of the movie’s spectrum is the accomplished novelist Keren Eiffel played by Emma Thompson. She writes “important” depressing stories that end in death, and she has to decide if she will kill yet another character in her newest book, even if doing so might actually kill someone in reality.

It’s a choice between creating harmful high-art or affirming life with a more modest choice. Like baking cookies, the latter option probably won’t get acclaim but will be more likely to make life enjoyable for the recipients.

How wonderful that a movie like Stranger than Fiction would use legendary actors like Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, not to make a pompous statement about the human condition, but to celebrate the cookie-baking aesthetic.

Usually this is not the kind of movie that features stylized visual effects, but there are some nice ones here. Motion graphics spring to life around Will Ferrell wherever he goes.

Get this, the effects are not essential to the story, but they are there to add texture to (gasp) characterization.  That’s surprising because character moments are usually the first to go in the editing room, so it is quite unconventional to supplement those moments with somewhat-costly effects.

The movie is well acted, innovative, and full of fun, post-modern moments with characters commenting on the story they inhabit, but it is also life affirming and full of unconventional wisdom.

Give it a chance or maybe even a second or third viewing.  It’s worth your time.

Playlist and art for the post:

Photo credit: flickr.com/sheeshoo

playlist: http://www.playlist.com/playlist/21526864651 The first song is from the movie’s soundtrack. I picked the rest.

art: http://goo.gl/fOmpZ Some paintings to peruse presented by Google’s Art Project.

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1 Response to “Culture Mini: Stranger than Fiction”


  1. 1 parmanifesto March 30, 2011 at 12:52 am

    This film has been recommended to me before. Now I must see it.


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