Character Assassination

The young man sat down in front of his computer and opened a new document in Microsoft Word. He sighed at the presence of a blank page. He has encountered this white sight numerous times but he’s always been intimidated to fill it out with words. Small steps, he thought. Think small steps.

The task at hand is to write a movie review. The prior night, he watched the film “Stranger Than Fiction.” It stars Will Ferrell as Harold Crick, the film’s literal character who hears a narrating voice (Emma Thompson) which describes his thoughts and actions.

The young man pondered about the movie for a minute. Suddenly, he was struck by a silly idea of matching the strange movie. He’d write the review by describing himself write the review in third person. He winced, uncertain if he can manage to pull it off. The idea, however inspiring, is already confusing him. It would be hard to simultaneously play both the character and the narrator. Focus on the movie, he thought. Think about the movie.

He proceeded to finish the summary. He quickly described Harold’s worriment over the narrating voice, concerned that he might be going crazy. Crick’s worriment leads to extreme panic as the voice alludes to his imminent death. It brings a whole new meaning to the term “character assassination.”

The young reviewer then googled the term, making sure what he meant differs from the actual meaning. When he was satisfied, he smiled, getting into the groove of writing. Little did he know it would take another day to finish the whole review.

“What?” he said. His momentum was deterred. “Fine, I’ll finish it tomorrow. I have to go out anyway!”

He lied. He took a nap that afternoon. He dreamt of magic bullet. Don’t ask. The next day, he sat in front of his computer again and opened the same Word document. He reread the one little paragraph he came up with. Much work to be done, he thought. He relaxed his shoulders, cracked his knuckles, and exhaled.

“While the premise is indeed interesting and unique,” the young man spoke while his digits danced atop the keyboard, “’Stranger Than Fiction’ is smart enough to only make it a hook. The true center of the movie is Will Ferrell, who plays his persona Harold Crick with an equal does of sincerity and panic. Remember when Ferrell sang during the Oscar telecast? The song was about comedians getting no Oscar attention. I think he’s actually gifted in both drama and comedy. What I like about him is that, in both genres, he’s consistently in character. He’s not hard to believe. In fact, this time, he made me teary-eyed. The scene: he softly sings the one ballad he knows how to play in a guitar.”

The young man paused in thought, and then shook his head. He quickly omitted the last two sentences. He watched “300” lately; he didn’t want to come across as a wuss so quickly.

“Supporting Ferrell like a solid army are three talented actors: Maggie Gyllenhaal as a pissed-off baker, Dustin Hoffman as the erudite lit professor, and Emma Thompson as the author who’s known to kill her main characters.”

“The story is quite fantastic. It has moments that’ll blow your mind. It has moments of simplicity. It is philosophical and thought-stirring, yet at the same time, also entertaining. It even has the potential to inspire a viewer to write a story, learn to play an instrument, or bake some cookies. Better yet, it inspires us all to live a life worthy of a story.”

The young man beamed at this thought and then suddenly blanked out. The dreaded writer’s block knocked him on the head. It is common for those who lose focus. He looked up and begged for help. The stolid ceiling remained unresponsive. Unable to reach high, the young critic stomped on the floor instead. He was eager to finish. He has to go for the kill.

“In conclusion…” he said. He froze.

“In conclusion…” he echoed.

“In con-clu-sion…”

He sighed out loud. He tried to remember his reaction to the film. Something bugged him about it. Its conclusion, he thought. It was the conclusion. The movie was second-guessing itself. As brilliant as it was, the ending felt compromised. He wasn’t fully satisfied. That’s it. Yeah, that was it.

Ironically, the young man sat in his chair, struggling with his own ending. Could he criticize an ending if his was also flawed? The young critic winced weakly. He proceeded to write a rushed ending and closed it out with his two favorite words: The end.

It was over. He wasn’t even going to look back and edit. He felt so relieved to have killed it. Just another day in the dirty business of review assassination. He was safe now. He was safe until the next blank page threatens him.

Grade: A-

Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Tony Hale, and Emma Thompson
Screenplay by
Zach Helm
Directed by
Marc Foster
Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity