I recently watched ‘Greenberg’ from 2010. Another one of these Ben Stiller movies that doesn’t fall into his more known/popular comedy realm. It’s not what I expected but it wasn’t bad either. It was a solid character study with some solid acting by Mr. Stiller. Why I’m pointing that out? Well, simple… I just want more of the serious Ben Stiller. He’s someone who can really pull it off. He’s probably one of the better versatile actors we have today. So when I saw the trailers for ‘Mitty’ I was all for it. It looked great. Promised a story with heart. Promised some good acting. And it’s directed by Ben Stiller himself. The question was not if I’ll see this movie… the question was if I’ll see it on the big screen or wait for Bluray. I’m glad I did go for the big screen and went to the theater.
Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty. He works at LIFE magazine, which is just making the transition from print magazine to online magazine. Naturally a lot of lose their jobs when this happens so they plan to make their last print issue a masterpiece. What does a good magazine need? A good cover of course. Due to his job Walter plays a big part in getting that cover done. For 16 years his job is taking care of the photo negative archive (you remember? analog photography?), when a new set of photos by very prominent photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) arrives. The message that comes along with it says that negative 25 is the one that should be taken for the last issue’s cover. But that particular negative is missing. In the meanwhile we learn that Walter didn’t really have a very exciting life. Never experienced things that we would normally say represent ‘living life!’. Walter has a crush on a woman who just started working for LIFE magazine and eversince he saw her he wanted to ask her out. Of course he’s a very shy guy and fails to make the right steps. When he is starting to get in trouble, because of the missing photo negative, things fall in place and he gets a chance to talk to Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). She offers him help asking around in the office if someone noticed anything. Walter is developing the negatives he does have and both try to read the pictures and try to find out where these might have been shot to track down Sean O’Connell. A photographer not known to be easily contacted due to constantly being on the road and working with analog equipment to completely focus on the job. Walter and Cheryl manage to get a clue from one of the photos. Walter decides to find Sean since Walter really needs negative 25. The hope is that Sean can either give him the negative or at least let him know where it is.
Beside the happenings evolving around Walter we have this background plot about a huge magazine that makes this weird transition from print to digital. Along with it all the bad things for the workers there. Throughout the movie we also have a message of old versus new. The movie is not trying to hammer down an opinion on the viewer but it’s kind of trying to explain how the old stuff can still be good. First of all the whole thing about photo negatives. Only true hardcore photographers are still working with film. I know a few of them and I can totally relate to their reason why they are still on film. It’s a very special look and feel that digital will never ever have. We get told that some things need time and patience to get good results. In our digitized environment nowadays you can get so many things so fast that we sometimes need a reminder… to sit back and enjoy the ‘moment’ for once. Then there is the magazine undergoing the transition from print to digital. Which might be a necessary step for the magazine to survive, but still leaves so many hard working people behind, losing their jobs. I liked this background theme. But thinking about it… it could also be the main theme of the film. That’s up for debate though. I guess everyone can find an own main theme in this movie, depending on what story element you can relate to.
This movie is a journey. It goes a lot of places and if you allow/let the movie take you by the hand you will have quite a fun ride with it. There I am really happy I decided to go see it in the theater. There are some really awesome nature/landscape shots, along with some spectacular lighting, in this movie. Yes, the movie has a some back and forth scenery jumps but I had no problem with it at all. Even though I must admit that it did hurt the storytelling a little bit. On the other hand I don’t have a suggestion on how to make it better. It all works just fine. The movie isn’t all serious as well. There are a lot of funny moments in it. But not stupid funny like in so many Ben Stiller comedy movies. Here we have a lot of heart in them and they serve a purpose. It’s not just funny just to be funny.
The film didn’t receive very good reviews and splits most opinions 50/50. There are the folks who really enjoyed it, are able to relate to the characters and what the movie wants to say. People who don’t like it for the most part seem to have a problem with how the movie tries to get its message accross. They argue that the movie beats the audience over the head with a message hammer by placing all these obvious hints at what it’s all about. And yes there are these obvious moments and I totally recognized them. But I never thought it was just done to make sure the audience really gets what the is movie about. The movie wants to be a message so why should it hide its intentions?
Is it a movie I’ll rewatch any time soon? Probably not. But still, I think it’s a film that you should see at least once. It got something to say and some really beautiful moments.
So YES! Go see it. Support this wonderful movie.