Will Ferrell in Old School

Angie here to tell you about my first official screening AT the festival. Yesterday, i saw 'Stranger Than Fiction,' a comic drama starring Will Ferrell as Harold Crick, a tax man who suddenly hears his life being narrated by an omniscient female voice, Maggie Gyllenhaal as a liberal-leaning baker Harold falls for, Emma Thompson as the writer who's made Harold her main character, Dustin Hoffman as an English professor trying to help Harold (without ruining the most important work of the famed author) and Queen Latifah as the author's agency-appointed assistant.

It's a good role for Ferrell. There are moments of absurdity and a little bit of silliness, but it's played very low-key, and he is really quite affecting as the hero here (read: he made me cry a couple times in this movie; not that that's so hard to do, since i am a cryer -- i've been known to sniffle through Hallmark commercials and, man, during the last two episodes of 'Deadwood' i had tears streaming down my face pretty regularly, but anyway ... this is the first time i've shed a tear for Ferrell). It's a good sign that he can have a career that doesn't exclusively consist of 'SNL'-type over-the-top characters (not that there's anything wrong with that; i really like 'Anchorman' and even 'Talladega Nights').

Even more surprising than Ferrell's stretch as an actor is that the movie is directed by Marc Forster, who also helmed 'Monster's Ball' -- the relentlessly dark drama for which Halle Berry won an Oscar a few years ago, and then did 'Finding Neverland,' the sweet, fictionalized biopic of 'Peter Pan' author JM Barrie and then 'Stay,' the not-so-well-reviewed trippy Ewan McGregor-Ryan Gosling thriller. Talk about range.

Hoffman continues to choose quirky roles -- this one has the feel of his existential PI in the interesting failure 'I Heart Huckabees.' Queen Latifah is good -- i really like her, so wanted to mention her, but her role is minor. And does anyone remember Tom Hulce, bad boy Mozart in 'Amadeus'? Well, he's officially unrecognizable now. You'll see him in a cameo as the flaky office psychiatrist, and if you have any memory of him from before, you'll be shocked. It's just aging, folks, but actors don't usually suffer it like the rest of us. Speaking of aging, Thompson is one of the few female stars who is doing it gracefully -- and naturally -- and i respect that so much. (If you want to see what she'll look like in 20 years or so, look for her mother, actress Phyllida Law, as a nun in 'Copying Beethoven' -- which you'll know a little about if you read my last post.)

'Stranger Than Fiction' is scheduled to hit theaters Nov. 10 -- i recommend it. And the colleague i saw it with LOVED it, so that's one solid recommendation, one strong recommendation.

It's my second day at the Fest. I'm going to try to see much-o movies and also have a few (real) star sightings -- wish me luck.

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Tags:Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction, Toronto Film Festival, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Marc Forster, Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball, Amadeus, Movies

categories Features, Cinematical