Many families maintain the rich tradition of sluggishly migrating to the movie theater every Christmas day. Yeah, my family does that too. Each year it’s always a struggle/argument deciding which film to see, especially this Christmas with its hefty five releases. Last year we saw Les Miserables, I consider watching that work, and one year we sat through Marley & Me. So this year I took it upon myself to select the movie.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty first came into my life during the trailer section of some summer blockbuster release. There was an immediate attraction I can only describe as “intimate.” Yet, I was weary. Actually I’m always weary about trailers nowadays. After the whole Max Payne fiasco I don’t trust ’em. But still, Walter Mitty would remain in the back of my mind for months to come.
Well, flash forward a few months later when the calendar finally hit December 25th, me and the fam set out for the 2:30 showing of Walter Mitty. Ben Stiller seems to take about five or so years between directing his features. He was in charge of comedies Tropic Thunder and Zoolander before helming this project. Personally, I’m a fan of a quality Ben Stiller comedy. He’s got his timing in check and his material can make me chuckle. Can he do drama?
Opening scenes can be great, they can be simple. My favorite openers are usually great through their simplicity. Walter Mitty’s (Ben Stiller) character was established within seconds, mere seconds. We get a shot of his checkbook open to all his recent purchases. Nothing exhilarating, nothing worthwhile. In fact, it is his purchases that show his flaws along with his inner struggle. With this simple information we understand his day-to-day, his personality, his love life, and his outlook. Needless to say, my senses were tingling.
Continuing within the first act, Stiller vividly juxtaposes Mitty’s real life and his daydreams. At one moment he’s on the phone with eHarmony customer service and the next he’s diving through windows saving a dog from gas explosions. It is a beautiful moment that sets up his ideal ideologies, as well as his extreme attraction to Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig).
Further captivating my attention was shot selection. The stillness of the camera clearly set the tone, bringing a mirroring dullness of the character to life, and allowing for a magnificent evolution of plot, character, and theme. Once again, conveyed in that opening scene, both artful and inspiring.
Mitty’s character change isn’t surprising or unpredictable, but it fits perfectly with the complexity of the story. Walter’s “secret” life begins fading into reality, even to the point of questioning the scene’s validity. This is the charm lifting Walter Mitty above the normal threshold, casting it into that oh so cherished “unforgettable” zone.
Besides all the above, I was thoroughly impressed with all the locations used throughout the film. From New York to Iceland, Stiller grasps the beauty of a bustling city, the inspiration of nothingness, and the drive of an individual. I’m always happy spending the time to enjoy a film like Walter Mitty. A simple character achieving amazing feats catalyzing his blossoming nature. “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” Important words I can always take with me.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) directed by Ben Stiller