Wan­der­ing with Wal­ter

De­spite be­ing rather pre­dictable, there is a sweet­ness to this movie that makes it a se­cret worth shar­ing.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - Re­view by SHARMILLA GANE­SAN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

There’S some­thing poignant about watch­ing The Se­cret Life Of Wal­ter Mitty – a film that priv­i­leges the ex­pe­ri­enc­ing of life over merely mak­ing im­ages of it – right af­ter a mul­ti­tude of cin­ema ad­ver­tise­ments of dig­i­tal cam­eras and smart­phones.

Per­haps that is why the movie, de­spite its ob­vi­ous­ness and rather bla­tant nos­tal­gia, works. It speaks to that part of us that feels, de­spite all the ac­cess and con­nec­tiv­ity of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, that we may in fact be more iso­lated than ever.

While adapted from a 1939 short story by James Thurber, this Ben Stiller-di­rected ve­hi­cle doesn’t have very much in com­mon with the orig­i­nal, ex­cept for the ba­sic premise of a colour­less man who has grand, heroic day­dreams to es­cape from his mun­dane life.

Wal­ter Mitty (Stiller) is a photo ar­chiv­ist at Life mag­a­zine, which is about to cease pub­li­ca­tion and go dig­i­tal. In his day­dreams, he may be all dash­ing and heroic, but in real life, he can’t even muster up the courage to talk to Ch­eryl (Kris­ten Wiig), a co-worker he wants to ask out.

Fac­ing pos­si­ble re­trench­ment, Wal­ter is put in charge of de­vel­op­ing a pic­ture for the very last cover of the mag­a­zine, taken by the mys­te­ri­ous and ad­ven­tur­ous pho­tog­ra­pher Sean O’Con­nell (Sean Penn).

When the neg­a­tive of the photo is found miss­ing, Wal­ter is given an ul­ti­ma­tum by the cor­po­rate-types tak­ing over the mag­a­zine – find it, or lose his job.

And so he em­barks on an im­petu­ous jour­ney on O’Con­nell’s trail, which leads him to Ice­land, Green­land and Afghanistan, not to men­tion on a se­ries of amaz­ing and of­ten hi­lar­i­ous adventures.

One of the movie’s big­gest strengths is its rev­er­ence for ob­jects and ex­pe­ri­ences that are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing things of the past. Us­ing Life, so well-known for its photography of iconic mo­ments, as an ex­am­ple of that is an in­spired move – not only does it give the movie its the­matic res­o­nance, it also al­lows the mag­a­zine and its var­i­ous cover pic­tures to be used for vis­ual im­pact.

On that vein, the film is sim­ply lovely to watch, with sweep­ing shots of gor­geous lo­cales con­trasted with tiny, de­light­ful de­tails. Cou­pled with a sound­track that is ab­so­lutely spot-on (fea­tur­ing, among oth­ers, David Bowie, Of Mon­sters And Men and Jack John­son), it is dif­fi­cult not to get swept away with the many feel­good mo­ments.

As for Stiller, I was ini­tially scep­ti­cal of him be­ing able to pull this role off, but this ver­sion of the char­ac­ter suits him per­fectly.

As the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter, Stiller spends a lot of screen­time on his own, and it is to his credit that he keeps us en­gaged through­out.

Wiig, mean­while, is a great foil for him, with her nat­u­ral­is­tic style and flair for com­edy.

The movie also boasts a strong sup­port­ing cast, in­clud­ing Pat­ton Oswalt in a neat cameo and Penn in a small, but piv­otal role that he ex­e­cutes with style.

The ac­tors play­ing the many

ben Stiller ben Stiller, Kris­ten Wiig, Sean Penn, adam Scott, Shirley macLaine char­ac­ters Wal­ter comes across on his jour­ney are also ex­cel­lent, and bring much of the life to his story.

Iron­i­cally, where the movie stum­bles is in the very seg­ments that it should soar: Wal­ter’s day­dreams. While Stiller play­ing a rocky-type, or spoof­ing The Cu­ri­ous Case Of Ben­jamin But­ton with Wiig are cer­tainly funny in their own right, the seg­ments are oddly jar­ring within the larger con­text, seem­ingly more suited to a Tropic Thun­der- style movie.

hence, while the movie is sup­pos­edly about a man who learns that real life can be more ful­fill­ing than his day­dreams, the stronger story is re­ally about our ob­ses­sion with engineering and doc­u­ment­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, rather than ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­enc­ing them – and when Wal­ter fi­nally meets O’Con­nell in a very af­fect­ing scene, this is the mes­sage that hits us.

The Se­cret Life Of Wal­ter Mitty is not with­out its flaws, and there are cer­tainly mo­ments when the more maudlin or pre­dictable bits threaten to over­whelm the story.

Yet, there is a sweet­ness at the heart of it that makes you want to go out, grab life by the hand and set off on an ad­ven­ture too – and per­haps, who knows, with­out a smart­phone cam­era in tow.

In his dreams: Wal­ter mitty (ben Stiller) imag­ines him­self as a fear­less moun­tain climber who cap­tures the at­ten­tion of his co-worker ch­eryl (Kris­ten Wiig) in theSe­cretLife­OfWal­termitty.

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