Stranger Than Fiction (12A) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Will Ferrell, cast perversely against type, plays a sad-sack accountant named Harold Crick who measures out his every activity in numbers. One morning he hears a voice describing his daily routines: is he being watched, or is he going nuts? The voice is that of Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a novelist who can't figure out how to kill off the central character in her new book - an accountant named Harold Crick. Screenwriter Zach Helm seeks to emulate Charlie Kaufman's comedies of consciousness (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), which would be fine if anyone other than Kaufman were capable of them; Helm has hit on a clever idea but sadly hasn't the wit or mischief to develop it. After a while Harold seems to forget the voice in his head and finds unlikely romantic fulfilment with a feisty baker client (Maggie Gyllenhaal). The existential teaser it starts with - what if your life isn't your own? - dissolves in a mush of repellent whimsy, and its literary musings are entirely inept. How are we to believe in a literature professor who a) is played by Dustin Hoffman and b) refers to a Shakespearean character named "King Hamlet"?