Thursday, May 17, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

Well, this was quite the rollercoaster. Not the movie itself, but my opinion of it.

I should preface my remarks by saying that Britt Daniel's involvement in this film is ultimately what made me watch it. I'm skeptical of overly literary films like this, so knowing Daniel helped out with the music was a safety net: hey, even if the movie sucks I'd hear a bunch of Spoon, right? Luckily, that wasn't the case.

However, it took a long, long time for that lack of suckage to become evident. Due to the aforementioned skepticism, I wasn't comfortable with it at first. I didn't feel right submitting to it, accepting it as cute or clever or whatever. I get antsy whenever a story is forced along in a "this happened, then this happened" kind of way instead of falling into place naturally. Whenever I get hit in the face with each step of the story, whenever I sense that kind of narrative manipulation, I resist it as much as I can. Given that the manipulation persists to the very end, it was a grueling battle to stay on the movie's side.

What's more is that it's there around every corner. We are constantly being made aware of authorial machinations, of the witty, observant ways in which the screenwriter tips his hat to things that seem "literary." We're meant to be acutely aware that all the characters' idiocyncracies, all their wardrobes, all the plot points that move through their lives are straight out of a mediocre novel. It's quite clever... a well-done joke.

The problem is that by concentrating on the joke, you lose connection to the storytelling itself. It's just more evidence of the man behind the curtain, the forced, unnatural development of the plot. Everything has been screwed with, leading to a disconnection from the storytellers. In the end, it just didn't resonate for me. I think all those contrivances hold the movie back from anything more than a great idea and an OK movie.

"Somebody help me! I'm contrived!"

Could anything have been done about it? Probably not. It's a movie about a real-life fictional character who is being puppeteered by an author. And it's not like the script wasn't clever or observant. I do think it could have been executed better, though it still turned out pretty good. Maybe it's just inherent to the concept that you have to accept the puppet master's hand up your ass. Maybe that's the only way it could work. But that's not how Jeff Doucette rolls.

Anyway, I did still enjoyed it quite a bit. It's certainly very sweet, thoughtful, and clever. And it's definitely a well-executed idea. I'll give it three sea-green Fender Stratocasters out of five.

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