The movie, “Stranger Than Fiction” is a fresh and classy treatment of the existential questions of free will and fate. Will Ferrell is Harold Crick, an IRS agent. He lives by himself, eats by himself, and his favorite word is ‘integer’. Every morning, he counts his every brushstroke as he brushes his teeth, ties his tie in exactly the same number of seconds, takes exactly the same number of steps to catch his bus. His daily routine runs like clockwork…and he thinks he is in control of the minutest item of his life.
His secure, mundane world is turned upside down one day as he finds out that his life is being narrated, written by someone else. He is in fact a character in a novel, and what’s most devastating is, the author (Emma Thompson) is planning his imminent death.
Kay Eiffel: [narrating] This is a story about a man named Harold Crick and his wristwatch. Harold Crick was a man of infinite numbers, endless calculations, and remarkably few words. And his wristwatch said even less. Every weekday, for twelve years, Harold would brush each of his thirty-two teeth seventy-six times. Thirty-eight times back and forth, thirty-eight times up and down. Every weekday, for twelve years, Harold would tie his tie in a single Windsor knot instead of the double, thereby saving up to forty-three seconds. His wristwatch thought the single Windsor made his neck look fat, but said nothing.
Kay Eiffel: I went out… to buy cigarettes and I figured out how to kill Harold Crick.
Penny Escher: Buying cigarettes?
Kay Eiffel: As I was… when I came out of the store I… it came to me.
Penny Escher: How?
Kay Eiffel: Well, Penny, like anything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.
Penny Escher: I’m Penny, I’m Kay’s assistant.
Harold Crick: Oh, I’m Harold. Her main character
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Because he’s real?
Kay Eiffel: Because it’s a book about a man who doesn’t know he’s about to die. And then dies. But if a man does know he’s about to die and dies anyway. Dies- dies willingly, knowing that he could stop it, then- I mean, isn’t that the type of man who you want to keep alive?
Harold Crick: Am I OK?
Doctor Mercator: [with facial indifference] Well, you’re not dead. On the other hand, it looks like you cracked your head, you broke three bones in your leg and foot, you suffered four broken ribs, fractured your left arm, and severed an artery in your right arm, which should’ve killed you in a matter of minutes, but amazingly, a shard of metal from your watch obstructed the artery, keeping the blood loss low enough to keep you alive… which is pretty cool.
Harold Crick: Wow.
Kay Eiffel: As Harold took a bite of Bavarian sugar cookie, he finally felt as if everything was going to be ok. Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies. And, fortunately, when there aren’t any cookies, we can still find reassurance in a familiar hand on our skin, or a kind and loving gesture, or subtle encouragement, or a loving embrace, or an offer of comfort, not to mention hospital gurneys and nose plugs, an uneaten Danish, soft-spoken secrets, and Fender Stratocasters, and maybe the occasional piece of fiction. And we must remember that all these things, the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties, which we assume only accessorize our days, are effective for a much larger and nobler cause. They are here to save our lives. I know the idea seems strange, but I also know that it just so happens to be true. And, so it was, a wristwatch saved Harold Crick.
Harold Crick: You don’t understand that this isn’t a story to me, it’s my life! I want to live!
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Hell Harold, you could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.
Harold Crick: What is wrong with you? Hey, I don’t want to eat nothing but pancakes, I want to live! I mean, who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living chooses pancakes?
Dr. Jules Hilbert: Harold, if you pause to think, you’d realize that that answer is inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led… and, of course, the quality of the pancakes.