DIR: Ben Stiller • WRI:Steve Conrad • PRO: Stuart Cornfeld, Samuel Goldwyn Jr., John Goldwyn, Ben Stiller • DOP: Stuart Dryburgh • ED: Greg Hayden • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • DES: Jeff Mann • Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty marks the return of Ben Stiller as director and proves to be his most ambitious fare yet in terms of both scale and content. The film is embellished in a charmingly wry style, with a lilting melodic wonder telling a bona fide fable of a working man’s plight.
It follows the surreal exploits Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a lonely middle aged man who works as a negative assets manager for LIFE magazine (aka he’s in charge of photos). He’s a habitual day dreamer who has little to no life experience. He zones out into exaggerated fantasies of the actions he cant bring himself to achieve in reality, like his romantic aspirations for Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig).
When LIFE magazine has been acquired by an outside firm and have decided to only release one more print issue and downsize the firm Walters future is placed in jeopardy, Walter is made responsible for bringing Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott), the manager who’s overseeing the takeover, a mysterious negative for the cover which Walter’s been entrusted from a veteran photographer Sean O’Connell, who claims it’s his most profound work.
This, however, presents a problem for Walter as the negative department never received the negative on the roll. Placing his job under immediate threat, Walter begins to try to contact Sean. But his efforts are in vain – Sean doesn’t have a phone or any know contact details. Walter now has to ask Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) who works in the photography department. She aids Walter in attempting to locate Sean, while more pressure is put on Walter by Ted Hendricks to bring the negative.
By tracing Sean’s bills Walter and Cheryl establish that Sean’s in Greenland, Walter sets off on a desperate quest to locate Sean and save his career. Walter goes out into the wilds of the world and tallies up a rich tab of exciting life experiences which develops him from the boring white collar workaholic he used to be and into an exciting globe-trotting adventurer.
This is a film utilizing cinema to its fullest, the staging is perfect, the art direction and cinematography are impeccable. The story is paper thin but none the less its charming and executed to great effect. The perfomrnce are subtle and diligently directed.
My only gripe really was some of the superhero dreams sequences at the beginning of the film were perhaps more in keeping with the type of slapstick airhead humour Stiller exercised in Zoolander and was perhaps a little ill fitting for Walter Mitty.
Overall though it has to be said that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is spellbinding and joyous, a merry merry go round.
PG (See IFCO for details)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is released on 27th December 2013