DAY 11 – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by 12daysofmovies

Step one: Listen to this song.

Step two: Imagine that you are me (I know, unpleasant, huh?) and you are lugging your substantial self to the Oxnard Plaza Cinemas 14 every  day to see a movie, and that before every one of these movies, you see the same two commercials. This one (featuring the song above) and an alternate cut of this St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital spot where Robin Williams says “he should be fighting video villains, not cancer cells,” and then it shows some kid with cancer, and then some more celebrities that I don’t know say “give thanks” in at least two languages.

Now, which of those two commercials do you think drove me to the brink of suicide on a daily basis? Which one of these two commercials featuring a hispanic actress whose name is not important (or, knowable) saying “Da las gracias” caused me to literally plug my ears with my fingers a couple times and try to think pleasant thoughts over the rising dread in my soul?

Ok, I feel bad for those kids, but that infernal music (same as in the link I provided above, should you dare to click it)The goddamn infuriating  rhythm of those corny, canned lines. What kind of organization that claims to do good for people could create such a horrifying, grating piece of shit commercial? Every day it was a struggle, a fucking guantlet of loathing just to get through that thing.

But you know what? Every time it played, that Secret Life of Walter Mitty commercial came on afterwards, with that cool, fake Arcade Fire uplifting music, and it kind of made it okay. It took the queasiness out of me, eased me into a less horrified and disgusted state of mind, prepping me for the forthcoming film. So, for that reason, I felt like Secret Life and I had a little something, even before I saw the movie. I felt we would get along just fine.

And we did.

The movie, I think, is comprised of really thoughtfully composed images that were specifically made with the big-screen in mind. Huge, wide open expanses fill the screen (think the train shot from Dr. Zhivago). Walter does a lot of traveling in this movie, across the world and across the screen. You don’t need to get close up on an actors face when the screen is 20 feet wide (how television is shot), you can, as director Ben Stiller understands, put your subject (even if its yourself) a mile away and have him occupy just a fraction of the composition.

Have a bunch of shots like this (which are beautiful) and play some mid-2000’s indie rock over it (like, The Arcade Fire song “Wake Up,” which sounds an awful lot like that song from the trailer above) and you pretty much have yourself The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s fun to watch.

The movie, however, made me feel uneasy for about half of the second act. I wasn’t sure if Walter’s international adventures were real or part of his inner “secret life.” For awhile I felt sure that the entire action of the movie was taking place in his head. I was eventually proven wrong, but still, the fantastical montage that opens his first flight to Greenland left a lot of room for doubt, which I filled up unhesitatingly (with…doubt. I can’t write anymore).

I liked this movie. It was nice. A nice movie is not so unwelcome when you’re seeing all the movies, trust me. It doesn’t boast any overwhelming intellectual depth or stunning emotional truth, but it’s nice to have flash before your eyes on a Christmas Day, and that’s good enough. Ben Stiller has a good, freewheeling grasp on the crafts of filmmaking and comedy, and his direction is grand, epic even, in scale.


1) I ate a lot of turkey today. And two pieces of pie. And three pieces of fudge. And two rolos. That’s not so bad, right? I feel weird. Someone hold me.