Stranger Than Fiction (US, 2006)

Stranger than reality

This mildly amusing postmodern piece of frippery, with a stellar cast, the posits mildly anarchic Maggie Gyllenhaal character falling for the totally anodyne IRS exec (Will Ferrell). Why!?! Readers please point me to a movie where an interesting man falls for a boring woman.

That aside, this is barely a romcom as the laughs are muted (mostly concerning Dustin Hoffman’s lit prof.) and, as I said, the romance is er laughable (as in unbelieveable). However it scores a hit on the Bechdel test, so it isn’t all bad but I’ve decided to start counting how many protagonists are male as well.

Bechdel test: Pass (2/2)
Protagonist: M (0/1)

2 Responses

  1. Within generic conventions the romance is entirely believable (opposites attract blar blar blar. He is so constrained by ‘the rules’ that he barely lives – Death and Taxes being clearly signalled as related – she is ‘alive’ and challenges taxes albeit in a small way) and aside from generic conventions is romance ever ‘believable’?

    In the case of this film it is made slightly more complex because the Thompson character is ‘writing’ his story and she writes tragedies not romances… It is Thompson’s fantasy – or the novel she hopes to sell at least – that suggests guitar lessons, the love of a good woman, and a watch can save a man’s life no matter how tedious and anodyne he is when he starts out. (And surely he has to be so for the redemption to work.)

    As a female viewer I’d also argue with the assumption that this film is an easy 0/1 male protagonist score. I was interested in Emma Thompson. Thompson was more than a minor character in the sub-plot of a rom-com. She narrates it like god with a death wish. She is making a parallel ‘journey of self discovery’ in that she stops chain stubbing out the cigarettes and finds a way to let a character live instead of killing him. I was really interested in at what point we started seeing the ‘second version’ of her story, or whether we never actually see the ‘first draft.’

  2. My point was not that the romance was unbelievable in this film, just that the convention of a woman falling for an uninteresting man is patently ridiculous. You could argue that the conventions of romance are ridiculous too, but they draw upon ideas of romance in society. However, when Mr Anodyne pulls Ms Sexy we seem to be in the realm of ANY man is worthy of attractive women.

    Being anodyne is not a sin and to be redeemed from er anodynomity is good but, if it has to be through romance, why can’t it be an anodyne woman that does this?

    I agree that the author is an interesting character, though I don’t understand the role of the assistant and I trust the fact she’s played by a black actor is irrelevant. I’m not sure whether she counts as a protagonist as she is more passive than active. She only changes the ending because she meets her character and can’t bear the thought of all the deaths she hasn’t really caused.

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