The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTYRoze-Rating: 4 / 5

Ben Stiller returns to the directors chair with this remake of short story adaptation of the same name. If trailers could win awards (can they?) then The Secret Life of Walter Mitty would win hands down, but because of that it may have left some viewers disappointed. As for me, it was everything I thought and wanted it to be. I didn’t expect it to be deep or emotional, if there was something I knew it would be, it was fun. As for viewing experience it totally did it for me, this is my perfect film for those time’s I feel wanderlust or just bored with life. That being said, maybe with a bit more finesse and fine tuning of the characters and the development of the story, it could have been something really special.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is just your average Joe stuck in a trance called life. Not the thrills of it but the repetition of it. Ironically Life magazine is where he works. He’s quiet, polite and in the shadows. Initially when first introduced to his place of work, we wonder how a man that works in such lively conditions could be as stuck as he is. Until we actually see where he works; a dark, cluttered space with only his subordinate as company. The film truly starts with a bang as we’re introduced to his first zone out while talking to an employee of a dating website. He spectacularly jumps off a bridge into a building window in order to bravely save the dog of the woman of his dreams (Kristen Wiig) before the building explodes. It’s a great opening, capturing just how imaginative Mitty can be, and honestly haven’t we all done that before? To get the synopsis out of the way, what finally encourages Mitty to take that leap of faith and live his fantasies is a lost negative, taken by loyal photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn).

There’s a lot I love about this film, the cinematography, music, locations and characters. First of all Mitty is one of those guys that we can all relate to. He wants to get out and explore the world but just can’t seem to do it. Maybe he feels he’s past that time and now he should be sticking to other commitments like his job or maybe he’s just scared of what he might find. That’s where we can identify ourselves in him. There’s moments where we should feel sorry for Walter but we don’t fully give into it because we know he has it in him. Just like most of us we aren’t aware of our potential either until we truly test ourselves. I think as a character he’s someone you can easily care about which is important in films. All this is of course due to Ben Stiller’s honest depiction of him, definitely his best performance in a while.

I’d also like to mention Kristen Wiig’s performance, it was actually so refreshing seeing her play such a normal character for once. Usually she takes on these oddball characters with eccentric personalities and what not, but watching her just tone it all down for a more real character was quite pleasant.

The locations are absolutely stunning given justice by the cinematography. From start to finish the film is filled with great shots and smart transitions, utilizing the camera at its best. For an actor who stars in a lot of comedies with silly humor and story lines, he sure has an eye for a great looking film. Ultimately that’s what makes this film so entertaining. We’re absorbed in vast scenery and its lush colours, making us slightly envious of Mitty. As for the sound track, any film with Rogue Wave in it will be in my good books.

The only negative I would say about this film is the comedy. When intended to be funny it produced laughs from me and the people around me but I felt some of the jokes just didn’t fit the tone of the film. It’s such a minor thing but you can definitely see some of Stiller’s influence with certain jokes. I like his films and his brand of humor but in terms of the films overall tone, the more satirical and indie jokes fitted in more than the mainstream ones. To be honest it didn’t bother me that much, it was just something that I noticed affected the film a little bit.

I can understand why critics were so split with this film. In terms of emotional substance, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty doesn’t produce much of it. There’s quite a few avenues that could have been explored a tad more, like love, growth and the meaning of travel. They are definitely present but for those viewers hoping for a little bit more, they may be left disappointed. In my opinion I like how light hearted it is. I didn’t want it to have moments which would bring the film down, I wanted it to be fun and charming and that’s what it delivered. I had a smile throughout most of the viewing and I think that says a lot about how much of a feel good film this is.

Prince Avalanche (2013)

paul_rudd_emile_hirsch_road_workers_prince_avalancheRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Prince Avalanche is about two guys painting lines on a country side highway just after it had been hit by a massive fire. Alvin (Paul Rudd) decides to work away from his girlfriend in order to somewhat reinvent himself and find a bit of joy in his life, tagging along is Lance (Emile Hirsch) his girlfriend’s brother. In this offbeat comedy we meet the pair as they begin their relationship and over time we see them form an unusual friendship but not without your odd feuds.

There’s no explanation about how the fire happened or how it affected the people in the area, it’s more about the growth of these two guys and their newly formed bond. They’re both at different points in their life. Alvin is well into his adulthood and is looking to cement a pure commitment with his girlfriend but moving away from her may suggest some form of unhappiness back at home. While Lance is more concerned about getting his “little man squeezed” than any serious life commitment. But I guess what they both have in common is that they long for more and haven’t really reached their optimum happiness in life. Alvin seems to be relishing life outdoors and his alone time, getting opportunities to explore what he loves and pure silence. There’s a scene where he visits a burnt down house and acts out a scenario as if he was back home with his girlfriend and you feel there was a lot of neglect there. He may have felt more alone at home than being out in the countryside by himself. Lance feels the opposite as he starts feeling lonely, missing the hectic life of Garland (funnily a small village), only thing on his mind is sex. What’s funny is that his train of thought is relatable to any man, he makes an emotional speech about not getting any and it’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen in film this year.

This is definitely one of my favourite films of the year, it has everything I like, weirdly lovable characters, offbeat humour, coming of age essence, brilliantly filmed settings and a great score. It may not appeal to mainstream audiences but if given the chance, the characters and tone of the film may just win a few viewers over. I like how on the surface it seems like such a simple film but dig deeper and it’s actually quite a charming story about growth and coming to terms with what happiness really is between two characters and their odd friendship dynamics. The final act probably holds one of my favourite scenes this year, filled with catharsis using booze and great music, simple yet freeing.

Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch both step outside their comfort zones playing characters we rarely see them cast as. Rudd takes on a more serious character while Hirsch is the funny one. Definitely solid performances. Lance Le Gualt, the truck driver also puts in quite a charismatic performance. The film only has four characters and from the start we are told that four people lost their lives in the fires that hit the countryside. So are they ghost’s? one of them definitely is, but I guess we can interpret it in any way we feel right.

Hopefully this film doesn’t go unnoticed, it won’t win any major awards but it deserves some form of recognition, starting with views. I’m not familiar with David Gordan Green’s earlier work except his mainstream comedies but if these are the type of films he produces, I’ll definitely be giving his films a look.