Will Ferrell (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Betwitched) plays Harold Crick. This is a character quite possibly unlike anything he has done before. Everyone has become very much accustomed to the utterly ridiculous and more often than not simply obnoxious people he has played in the past. Whether by some divine intervention or other benevolent force, that character has been thrown out the window. With any luck, gone will be the days of Elf and cameos like his appearance in Wedding Crashers. Of course these comedic turns can be fun but in all honesty the true word, as a friend so aptly put it, is "gratuitous" and for the most part just unnecessary. This new version of the Will Ferrell, with his smart but not over-the-top or high-horse "ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances" facelift, is vastly preferable to his insultingly in-your-face style of previous roles.
The supporting cast is also well worth the price of admission. The always brilliant Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Sense and Sensibility) plays the slightly unhinged, as all great authors seem to be, Karen Eiffel, who has not published a book in 10 years. Thompson once again devotes herself whole-heartedly to the role, very believably outfitted as the plagued creative genius. Dustin Hoffman (Meet the Fockers, Rain Man), as literary expert Professor Jules Hilbert, brings a decidedly quirky yet cleverly realistic element to the film. His character is perceptive and practical, although at times very fatalistic, but Hoffman pulls off this contradiction without a hitch. Even the love interest played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (World Trade Center, Mona Lisa Smile), bakery owner Ana Pascal, finds that happy medium between just plain weird and approaching normal. She is accepted because she reflects the reality of how an individual can be made up of so many different parts yet still find happiness within their own highs and lows.
The film channels I Heart Huckabees and Punch Drunk Love, but even if those two films seemed way too out there to follow, this one is not. It shares the ideas and messages from those films but makes them easier to understand without diluting them or drying them out. It is fun but smart, laugh-out-loud but thought-provoking. Essentially, the tight script and flawless casting are what make the film. The characters deliver their one-liners and soliloquies with finesse. Timing, both on the side of the writers and the actors, really draws the viewer in and keeps them there for the duration. The awkward small talk of the socially inept, the connection made at the recognition of a shared favorite song or the different ways of dealing with the notion of destiny; these are what make the film amusing, touching and revealing. It is interesting that at one point the discussion of literature that Harold hopes will reveal the truth behind his situation turns to whether he is the hero of a comedy or a tragedy, because that categorization can be applied to more than just the written word, and this film catches that, both hilariously and movingly.
Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, French
Language and Sound: Language and Sound; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; cast and crew interview; making-of featurette.
* Featurettes -
o Actors in Search of a Story (18 minutes, 30 seconds)
o Building the Team (8:30)
o On Location in Chicago (10:30)
o Words on a Page (9:30)
o Picture a Number: The Evolution of a G.U.I. (17:15)
o On the Set (3:00)
Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging
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