Stranger than Fiction

Yes, the movie. With Will Ferrell.

It’s nothing entirely remarkable, but this is a better movie than I thought it would be. It’s better than I was told. I heard about the movie from several people who’d seen it when released to the theaters on the heels of a big TV ad campaign billing it as another Will Ferrell comedy.

They didn’t laugh once. Neither did I. What’s remarkable is that I still liked it.

Now, I get it… Will Ferrell is a comedic actor. He plays the lead role which means the marketability of the film relies almost solely on his star power. Presumably, his fan base wants to see costume humor, tranquilizer darts, clever one-liners and his hairy ass streaking through a college campus. That’s good comedy, but it’s not in this movie. The people who went to see it on opening weekend were sold a bill of goods, bored for 113 minutes, and went away to tell their friends that it wasn’t funny at all.

Thanks to Netflix, I’m watching this movie with a good bit of distance from the marketing campaign that set it up for such failure. With only a vague recollection of what it’s supposed to be about, I received a few delightful surprises. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman (who I really enjoy) help comprise a very strong cast of supporting actors. As a person interested in writing, I find the themes of storytelling and psyche and writer/character relationship pretty entertaining. There are even a few scenes that, if allowed to play more dramatically, would have been very compelling, even emotional.

Movie studios, like the rest of us, often get more things wrong than they get right, but why must they repeat this one mistake? Millions of dollars are spent selling the right movie to the wrong people, just to draw the largest possible crowd on opening weekend, who will inevitably leave and tell their friends not to see it.

It’s as though they’re trying do disappoint audiences.

The Point: Don’t dupe people. Trust your audience to be intelligent and discerning. Trust them even more to share what they think with their friends — they will. Opening weekend in the film industry is the smash-and-grab heist of the marketing profession; where you can make enough money to turn a profit before people really know what they’re buying. Hollywood may be the only place marketers can sell a product as something it’s not, keep their jobs, and stay out of prison. I don’t recommend it.

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