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the secret life of walter mitty
DIRECTOR: Ben Stiller
CAST: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn and Sean Penn
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
PLAYING out like a luscious magazine in moving pictures, this film will appeal to anyone who likes the idea of working on a newspaper.
Based more on the previous 1947 film of the same name than the most famous of James Thurber’s short stories, this Ben Stiller film turns Walter Mitty into the person in charge of the negatives at Life Magazine.
Faced with losing what should be the negative of the magazine’s last ever cover, Mitty (Stiller directs and stars as the eponymous character) is forced to step out of his imagination and man up.
Tracking down the photographer means Mitty has to actually go out and interact with the world and people at large, forcing him to deal with real situations that don’t turn out the way they do in his imagination.
As he starts to interact with people his imaginary heroic sessions taper off and the film turns out to be an exploration of loneliness and making a connection in a digital age.
While there is some comedy (especially a weird bit where they make fun of the Benjamin Button film) this is mostly a dramedy which encourages people stuck in dead-end careers to get out there and follow their teenage dreams. Especially if that dream was about travelling.
Thanks to Stuart Dryburgh’s cinematography, many of the travel sequences feel like they were lifted straight off the pages of National Geographic Magazine – saturated colours, unusual camera angles which emphasise looking at the world differently and framing which draws more from stills photography than videography. The rule of thirds is rigidly applied – something a photographer will see and the casual observer will appreciate, even if you don’t analyse the magic at work.
While Mitty’s new boss is just as much of an idea-stealing idiot as the one in the 1947 film, Walter’s family are much more sympathetically portrayed by Shirley MacLaine as his loving mother and Kathryn Hahn as his scatterbrained, but sweet sister.
Sean Penn provides a pivotal moment as the photojournalist Sean O’Connell, but it is really Stiller’s film. He makes for an endearing drone who grows into himself and even when the story starts to splutter a bit, we have been won over to root for the daydreamer who learns to live his life instead of dream it.
If you liked Don Jon or Silver Linings Playbook you will like this.