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The concept - of an underachieving dreamer finally discovering the world - is something most of us can relate to. Accompanied by a truly beautiful soundtrack, Oscar-worthy camera work, and the surprisingly able acting of Ben Stiller, as well as an accompanying cast which includes Adam Scott, Kirsten Wiig and Sean Penn, among others, this is heart-warming and truly special.
Ben Stiller is perfect as Walter Mitty. His performance was exactly what I wanted. There was one scene in particular that seemed a little out of place, but then again you have to remember that Walter Mitty has a very active imagination. Ben Stiller's performance was so engaging, a nice break from his usual slapstick roles (which I also love). If you are hoping to see him doing one of his usual humorous roles, you will be disappointed. If you want to see him capturing the emotions of a man that has a hard time expressing himself, you will love this movie.
The visuals in this film were particularly fantastic. From the New York offices of LIFE all the way to Iceland. Every scene was perfectly captured and just beautiful.
Finally, the soundtrack. While I was definitely distracted by the visuals and Ben Stiller's spot-on performance, the soundtrack deserves a nod as well. Every song fit perfectly with the tone of the film. There are a few scenes that stand out as particularly wonderful, and I'm sure you'll know what I mean once you see the movie. This will definitely be on my shelf once it is released.
Really my only criticism is Adam Scott. While he is great at playing the jerk boss, his beard is very distracting. It looks fake, as if they pasted it onto his face. Other than that, I think the movie was pretty much perfect and can be enjoyed by anyone looking to see a beautiful movie about a man with a very active imagination.
If you are looking for a connection to the original story, the connection happens during the first 45 minutes and then seems to go in its own direction. Big deal. The movie moves through characters development, plot lines, and geographies smoothly, and does not reveal its final hand until the end.
I loved the James Thurber short story which Writer Steve Conrad based his update. Walter is the chronic day dreamer, an escape from his ordinary life. At times Director Stiller and Writer Conrad teeter capriciously all over the narrative landscape including a hysterical and touching eHarmony thread. Granted they humorously frame Walter's "zone outs" from reality. One obscure gag from "Benjamin Button" is nearly wacky enough to spiral into incoherencefortunately it does not. There is the amazing upside. In a joyously freeing scene Walter skateboards down the winding roads of Iceland; spectacularly filmed by Stuart Dryburgh. Kristen Wiig in a touching turn goes unplugged with David Bowie's "Ground Control to Major Tom". All the curious rifting I think is forgivable for its noble purpose. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" celebrates being present in life. No one is alone.
Ben Stiller is quietly heroic navigating Walter's transformation into the unknown. His blank stares as Walter "zones out" touch the depth of our own vulnerabilities. He is bold, funny, and aware. Walter Mitty (Stiller) is a photo negative archiver at Life Magazine. He has given up on his dreams, taking on the financial and emotional stress of his aging Mom brilliantly played by Shirley MacLaine, about to enter a care home. His sister is flighty wannabe actress Odessa (good Kathryn Hahn), dreams of playing Rizzo in "Grease". Walter joined eHarmony so he can date Cheryl Melhof (Kristen Wiig), who works in the same office. Wiig charms as Cheryl, the quirky single Mom of skateboarder son Rich (Marcus Antturi). Cheryl is smart and pretty, and is actually interested in Walter, if he had a clue.
Life Magazine has been taken over by another Company. To transition over to an on-line magazine, Ted Hendricks (brilliantly arrogant Adam Scott) heads the restructuring corporate team. Ted is a major jerk arrogant and not as smart as he thinks. Walter is the sole personal contact of legendary cover photographer Sean O'Connell (Penn). When Sean's photo negative for the cover of Life's last newsstand issue is missing, Ted focuses his attention on Walter. Sean claims this is his best photo of his career. Walter must find the missing negative to save his job and possibly win over Cheryl. Working with Cheryl, Walter starts his search in Greenland. Somehow diverting to Iceland, Walter calls Cheryl from a Papa John's Pizza there. It all ties in.
Ben Stiller is inspiring, as "Walter Mitty" amazingly never takes itself seriously. The movie joyfully celebrates life as illustrated by the beautiful soccer game with Walter and Sean in the Afghan mountains. Stiller makes us pull for Walter as he reclaims his power. Kristen Wiig is funny and compassionate as Walter's gentle muse. She is surprising. Sean Penn is awesome as Sean O'Connell, strong and whimsically wise. Shirley MacLaine anchors in her Mother's unconditional love for her son Walter, without many words. Patton Oswald nearly steals the movie as Todd, the eHarmony profile adviser. Warm and hysterical he punctuates Walter's transformational journey. Stiller reminds us with humor and soul that Life is wonderful when we are present in it. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is funny and beautiful.
This movie strikes an incredible balance between indy/art-house and Hollywood epic. The pathos of the main character is well-captured in subtle ways, as are the feelings of triumph when he is able to go beyond his own self-imposed limitations. The cinematography is extraordinary-- this is a drama that *must* be seen in theaters. I expect that most adults with any sensitivity at all will find this a highly satisfying experience that speaks to their very cores. My wife and I were privileged to see it in an advanced screening, and can't believe we have to wait another couple of weeks for the official release to go back and see it again.