Saturday, November 25, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

I just got home from seeing the movie Stranger Than Fiction, and I have to say, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to.

Warning: Mild Spoilers

First, I hate strongly dislike Will Ferrell. His brand of humor just doesn't touch me, and while I wouldn't call him a bad actor, I try to avoid movies in which he plays a large part. But as an author, I was intrigued by the premise of this movie, and he was clearly performing in an understated role, so I decided to give it a try.

He did a great job. Much like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, he conveyed humor and pathos with subtlety and charm. Maggie Gyllenhall (I think I spelled that correctly) was impressive, as well. Emma Thompson blew them all away, but then, she always does.

Anyway. I generally am not interested in exploring the human condition in my fiction, whether reading it or writing it. I mean, I'm living the human condition. I don't need someone's dark, fatalistic take on life and death, especially because it usually means the story is a tragedy. There's value in a story that makes you cry and appreciate every minute you live--but not for me.

That's why I liked this movie so much. It took that exploration, that inevitability of death, and turned it on its head. The pacing, while slow, never felt draggy, and I don't know whether to attribute that to the writer, Zach Helm, or the director and editor, or both. I cried at the end, yet when it was over, I didn't feel purged or sad or moody or depressed or even contemplative--I felt satisfied and content.

I think this movie will get an A from me, a rare rating for a film that's not starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom this year. :)

While I'm talking about acting, I wanted to express my appreciation for two possibly underrated actors: Steve Guttenberg (underrated because of Police Academy) and Aaron Ashmore (underrated only because he is young and hasn't done much yet).

Both actors were in Veronica Mars. Steve Guttenberg amazed me every time he was on screen. I was watching this incredibly familiar face, this icon from my childhood (and star of one of my favorite growing-up movies, Three Men and a Baby). Yet his character had a hardness, a smarminess, I never would have expected him to be able to pull off. He became his character in an incredibly convincing manner and possibly deserved an Emmy.

Aaron Ashmore was in season one of VM and in one episode of season two. He was fine, on par with the generally high quality of that show. But it wasn't until I compared Troy (from VM) with Jimmy Olsen, his current character on Smallville, that I was impressed. His Jimmy Olsen is naive and sweet and YOUNG in ways his Troy couldn't come close to being. He gave Troy confidence bordering on cockiness but a smooth charm that made him seem worthy of Veronica, until he was revealed to be a cad. The distinction in characters is small and is internally driven, which I see as a mark of a great actor. I'll be interested to see how he develops over time.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad that other people are starting to recognize Aaron's skill as an actor. To see a really good example of what he can do you should check out "Treed Murray" (released in the US as "Get Down"). He has very minimal dialogue throughout the movie but still has such a strong presence throughout.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Thanks, Kelly, I'll check it out!