This is the kind of film one needs every now and then, to remind us that we should be living life. So it inspires us to take that leap – just, after the credits roll of course – but that doesn’t mean we can’t stop to look at the beautiful bits infused in our everyday life.
A day-dreaming and reclusive photo negative operator Walter Mitty, more at home in the dark rooms in the background and basement of Life Magazine, searches the apparently misplaced or lost image that was set to be the cover shot of their last print (before the magazine converts to digital/online). In searching for the image he must first track down the old-school and illusive photographer who took it – an investigative journey which takes him half way around the world, abandoning all his comforts in a bid to simultaneously rediscover a dormant part of himself.
A film that anyone and everyone should watch, and if you’re a Ben Stiller fan you’ll enjoy it all the more. It’s perhaps a lot more quirky than the James Thurber short story it was based on.
Ben Stiller is like several other filmmakers who have their own style (though his is founded in comedy) and who sometimes just can’t resist throwing their own unique flare onto a project by bestowing upon it (in this instance) a ‘Stiller stamp’, even though it wasn’t called for. That being said the quirky factor does have its own charm, if you allow it free reign. I believe this story could’ve been told in a few ways. There would be this, the Ben Stiller way, or alternatively a more introspective artsy and philosophical way complete with deeper ‘life’ issues. Had they gone that route (minus Stiller in the director’s chair) but retained Stiller as lead (think a more mature ‘global’ version of The Way Way Back), then we may have even seen more awards attention, but in a way it’s kind of endearing that they didn’t (in its own way). Instead they went for the slightly off the hinges ‘cheeky but fun’ route (though it would’ve been interesting to see this in the hands of, say, David O Russell, or some European chap even).
Either way it would remain, and is, a visual feast that in itself is worth the price of a ticket. The Stiller approach though also happens to spice up the less frenetic exchanges in the office environs between Walter and his co-workers, in particular Ted his new ‘boss’ overseeing the digital takeover (played by Adam Scott) – and then there’s the office love interest Cheryl (Kristin Wiig), all of which compound the comedic overtones.
Joel’s early pre-media review highlighted both a negative and positive aspect of the film in both instances it makes you think differently about your life, but I also feel that there’s enough here to display the small finer details which make even a sedentary city-life beautiful, like the relationship between Mitty and his mother, and not least of which is the illusive final image Mitty searches for; what they demonstrate is that you can find beauty everywhere, you just need to take the time to look.
With the great visuals and colourful characters, with special mention going to Sean Penn playing the photojournalist Sean O’Connell – a character which is seemingly a very thinly disguised version of himself – makes The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a delightful addition to the 2013/2014 line-up. A feel-good pick-me-up to add a little perspective for the coming year.