Romy Shiller

Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

In Film, review on January 23, 2014 at 11:00 am

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About: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an American romantic adventure fantasy comedy-drama film directed by, co-produced, and starring Ben Stiller.

This is the second film adaptation of James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name. The 1947 version was produced by Samuel Goldwyn and directed by Norman Z. McLeod, with Danny Kaye playing the role of Walter Mitty.

The film premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 5, 2013. It was given general release on December 25, 2013 in the U.S. The film received mixed reviews from critics.

Plot: Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a negative assets manager (photographs) at Life Magazine who frequently daydreams of fantastic adventures, and has a crush on his coworker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). Photojournalist Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), who works closely with Mitty concerning his submissions, has sent him a package containing his latest negatives and a wallet as a gift in appreciation of Mitty’s excellent work. Furthermore, that package contains a special photograph, negative 25, that he says in writing captures the “Quintessence” of Life Magazine and that it should be used for the cover of the magazine’s final print issue as it converts to online status. Unfortunately, that specific negative is missing from the package and Mitty is forced to stall the obnoxious corporate transition manager Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) handling the downsizing. Using the other negatives as clues, Mitty figures out that O’Connell is in Greenland and flies there to try and find him.

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I kind of adored this film. There is a mixed critical reception out there but the story is right up my alley and while I never read the short story that it’s based on or saw the first film, this film leaves room for me to think that when Mitty zones-out he is actually living an alternate reality.

The states are not black and white. For instance, there are moments in his ‘real’ life that are completely unrealistic; He jumps out of a helicopter, into the ocean and negotiates sharks… He is a mild-mannered ‘suit’ who does flashy moves on a skateboard… Fuzzy or grey areas are not a problem for me. I do not need the linear – in Mitty’s world, his experiences make sense.

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Kristen Wiig plays Cheryl Melhoff, Mitty’s crush and colleague from the accounts department. Wiig is in not one but three movies [lately] — as a phone sex voice in Her (“Choke me with that dead cat!”), as Steve Carell’s less-than-brainy love interest Chani in Anchorman 2, and her most grounded role of the three, Ben Stiller’s muse in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. In general, I am a fan and here she is just terrific. She is always funny, bright and inspirational. Here there is an added dimension of pathos

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Sean Penn’s roles and choice of material says a lot about his personality. I’m trying to avoid a gush-fest here but he is bloody brilliant usually in everything.It seemed just the right match to cast Oscar®-winning actor and director Sean Penn in the role of the mysterious icon who beckons Walter Mitty into the big, wide open world. “Sean O’Connell is a guy who represents creative integrity and he had to have this amazing presence that the audience connects with instantly when Walter finally meets him. That’s why Sean Penn was really my first choice because Sean embodies all that in life for me,” says Ben Stiller.

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Adam Scott is one of the most under-rated actors around. I once reviewed a film he was in called Passenger Side [HERE]

In this film he plays executive Ted Hendricks: an evil, high-schoolesque, type. A review I read says, Scott’s dry wit gives him the ability to shine as an unlikeable character. Oh, yes.

Scott says, I don’t know what it is; I just really like, for a lack of a better word, “a-holes.” I like them in real life. I like watching them. I think they’re really funny. Just petty, petulant brats. Egocentric, ultra-confident a-holes. I think they’re really funny and I love playing them for whatever reason.  But I also love playing nice people as well. It was a relief when “Mitty” was done and I went back to “Parks and Recreation” and I could play a nice person again. It felt better, but it was a lot of fun playing the bastard as well.

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Shirley MacLaine plays Mitty’s mother, Edna. Her presence in this film should be a clue that this film breaches normal boundaries and suggests an altered reality. As always, she lights up the screen and here she provides an inspirational voice.

The film is shot quite beautifully. Each frame in the film is simply breathtaking. The lenses zoom out from close-ups to wide-angle shots, capturing the locales magnificently. Shots of the sweeping volcanic ash, Walter’s plunge into chilling Artic Sea and initial action scene are the ones that speak volumes about cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh’s mastery.

What adds to the viewing experience is the remarkable soundtrack. Every song fits perfectly with the mood of the film.

This is a very good film but like many of the actors here, it will be sorely misunderstood.