Stranger Than Fiction

In theaters.

Perhaps I should begin this review by acknowledging that I’m a sucker for this sort of metatextual film, tweaking the distinction between fiction and reality. I am, after all, the sort of person whose idea of introspection is to imagine how an omniscient narrator might describe me. When something bad happens to me, my first consolation is the thought that I can turn it into a good story, and when I’m angry, I tend to say biting things I don’t mean due to my longstanding, secret desire to play the villain in a Jane Austen novel. Needless to say, I adored the premise of Stranger Than Fiction, the tale of a man with a narrator stuck in his head, from the moment I heard it.

To his credit, though, screenwriter Zach Helm has more in mind than an archly clever play on fictional constructs. Although the film, directed with subtle polish by Marc Forster, never loses its gentle playfulness, it sincerely grapples with philosophy (and not just postmodernism), and it treats its characters with real heart, not ironic detachment. In retrospect, I don’t think it achieves all of its considerable ambitions—this is a movie trying to be a high-concept comedy, a romance, an allegory, and a metaphysical treatise all at once—but it has moments of real beauty, the kind you only get when you’re trying to say something True.