With its raft of big ideas (life, death, love, the narrative structure of the modern novel), Stranger Than Fiction almost works better on the small screen rather than the big. The added intimacy just makes the bittersweet surreal comedy – about an ordinary man who discovers he’s actually the lead character in a novel – even more affecting.
It’s a crying shame, then, that the DVD extras have got more breathless gush than an Elton John Oscar party. There’s only so much you can genuinely stomach of cast and crew telling you how wonderful their colleagues are and, after over an hour’s worth stretched across three featurettes, you’ll be crying out for a little nastiness or tension to relieve the genial boredom. None of them realise that every documentary needs a little friction to make it grip. Ironic, really, since the movie itself so smartly deals with the way you bolt together a story.
And while it’s annoying to be told it, the cast really do deserve to look smug, particularly Will Ferrell, who’s bolstered by Zach Helm’s smart yet soulful script. It’s not quite his Truman Show, but he certainly deserves other ‘straight’ roles after gentle-nerd-in-a-world-turned-upside-down Harold Crick.
There’s no commentary, but for once that doesn’t grate. Just how would you work it into a film that so heavily and cleverly uses voiceover narration already? And even if you managed it, director Marc Forster would only spend the entire chat-track giving more backslaps to his cast and crew. We’re better off without it.