Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty.
Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty.

Life’s What You Make It
Rating: ****

He’s a simpleton, this Walter Mitty. He has been working as a Negative Asset Manager at Life magazine for 16 years when news spreads that the magazine is moving online (I’m told that Life ceased publication in 2007).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty appealed to me, because I too am a daydreamer. I’ve defused bombs and jumped off airplanes while Walter Mitty travels mountains, saves dogs and gets into a Hancock-like fight sequence. While the film has enough “awww” moments, Stiller has incorporated quirky situational humour such as pointing out directions with two Afghani mountain guides or even a well-imagined piece in the middle of the Icelandic sea that involves a shark.

Kristen Wiig – what a wonderful actress she is turning out to be. For comedians like her and even Steve Carell, the comedy drama genre is the true calling. I wouldn’t probably say the same about the bearded Adam Scott, who clearly does not know his character well, or maybe he’s poorly written.

While the daydreams are presented as larger-than-life moments, the scenes where Mitty embraces the pleasures of life are presented in a simple yet fulfilling way. The joy in his eyes as he skateboards across beautiful Icelandic landscapes, or while trekking the Afghani hills – everything appears beautiful when he really lives it. As Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) says “I’m not gonna let the camera distract me. I’m just gonna enjoy this moment.”

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty comes with minute flaws. How does he just fly to Greenland without visa? How can he receive calls when he’s 18,000 feet about sea level? And yes, the character of Todd Maher (Patton Oswalt) just doesn’t sound like any other online dating call center representative. If you wanna know how they usually sound, here’s a clue – boring.

The film also features a different motto for Life magazine. One which I cannot forget:
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls,
draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”


Review: Milk


Pure, White and Untouched

Milk (R)

Director: Gus Van Sant

Cast: Sean Penn, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin

Rating: ***

Gus Van Sant’s biopic ‘Milk’ is more like a glass of pasteurized milk. The genre is known; the story is controversial; the actors are professional; the treatment is significant. But, Dustin Lance Black’s script makes the change. Hence, he rightly deserves the Academy Award. What is the big idea behind a biopic? It’s a filmic representation of a person’s life or part of a life as in Frost/Nixon. Milk is the life of Harvey Milk after his fortieth birthday. Harvey Milk is your gay protagonist and he is in New York City. It was in his forties that he moved to San Francisco and the story covers the next eight years, his last eight years of his life.

Gus Van Sant is a professional. You’ll understand that when you see Milk. The film is more naïve and probably lets a larger time on gay relationships and a smaller time on the drama. You would have seen better sexual content in Brokeback Mountain and Midnight Cowboy. However, Milk is a combination of relationships and the conflict. A plot device is a must in every script. Here, it’s the gay rights. It’s Dustin Lance Black who does the neat job in tidying the script.

The story begins with Harvey Milk celebrating his 40th birthday in New York City with Scott Smith, his lover. He later drives to San Francisco and opens a camera store in Castro, the gay area in the bay area. Milk finds that the public have made a wrong interpretation of gays and thus begins to fight for it. He is legally unbiased and so he does look out for help. Here, he meets a range of gays with whom he forms a league. Milk then contests for the elections losing it twice and winning the third time with the help of Mayor Moscone. Here enters Dan White who is a fellow supervisor and forges a complex working relationship with Milk.

When Milk rejects a decision made by White, he finds that White who had supported gays has started to go against them. But, this becomes a broken bone as White’s further decisions and bills are rejected by the fellow supervisors. As a result of compulsive anger, White assassinates Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Sean Penn won the Academy Award for portraying the role of Harvey Milk. Well, an award is to say that one has done a neat job. That’s true! Penn has remarkably done a neat job as Harvey Milk. It is a graceful measure that the actor accepted the role and has played it remarkably.

After successful outings in ‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘W.’, Josh Brolin has once again proved to be a performer of versatility. Brolin plays Dan White.

Danny Elfman provides us with classic symphonies of the sixties and seventies, proving to be the right person for the job. Harris Savides’ cinematography enlivens the film. Gay colours like white, yellow and light blue have been used in most parts of the film making it the exact lighting for a film on gay orientation.

Milk is a fascinating, multi-layered lesson on the history of a man who changed a few million lives in the USA. It’s a must watch for its screenplay, direction and notably Sean Penn.