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|The Secret Life of Walter Mitty|
dir Ben Stiller
scr Steve Conrad
prd Stuart Cornfeld, Samuel Goldwyn Jr, John Goldwyn, Ben Stiller
with Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt, Adrian Martinez, Sean Penn, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Ari Matthiasson, Gunnar Helgason, Marcus Antturi
release US 25.Dec.13, UK 26.Dec.13
13/US Fox 1h54
Mountaintop experience: Stiller and Penn
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Beautifully shot and seamlessly edited, this is one of those expertly made films that really needs a scruffy edge. Everything is so earnest and wondrous that we struggle to identify with anything or anyone on-screen. Just a whiff of cynicism could have given the movie the emotional kick it so desperately wants to deliver.
Daydreamer Walter (Stiller) manages photographic negatives at Life magazine, a job that couldn't be much more redundant in a digital, post-magazine world. Indeed, Life is being dismantled by a corporate goon (Scott). Then an old-school photographer (Penn) sends Walter a roll of film with the quintessential Life photo on it, but Walter can't find that negative. Talking with Cheryl (Wiig), the colleague he has a crush on, he finally gets the courage to venture beyond his comfort zone, following the trail to Greenland and beyond.
Shot by Stuart Dryburgh, the film looks gorgeous, especially when the action shifts to the rugged beauty of Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas. Along the way, Stiller directs several clever shifts between reality and Walter's imagination, although the fantasies become muddled once Walter actually leaves New York. This heightened unreality allows the story to surge into some genuinely emotional high points as Walter transcends each barrier.
Clearly Stiller wants us to do the same, but the characters are so thinly defined that they never become real people. The odd moment of genuine reflection catches us off guard, and each performance is nicely observed even if the actors struggle to add complexity. Stiller is likeable as the everyman at the centre of the fable, although his evolution is symbolised by his growing a beard, which is exactly what marks Scott as the movie's villain.
The fact that all of this happens at Life magazine is indicative of the script's lack of subtlety. And while cliches and stereotypes are comforting, especially in a story that plays with imaginative flights of fancy, these same things prevent the film from getting off the ground. It's simply too pushy and contrived, and never artistically inventive enough to whisk us away. Which kind of undermines the central message about getting out and living your life rather than hiding from it.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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