When I was at uni, there were a couple of films that I thought were just the cat's pyjama's. These films tended to appeal to the arty-farty academic part of my brain that was heavily nurtured at the time (while also being gradually wiped out with booze). One such film was Garden State. You could call it pretentious. And you'd be right.
I remember reading an interview with Zach Braff at the time, where he remarked that he was heavily influenced by a certain style of film; he was attracted to movies where any single frame could be used as a poster - a beautiful piece of art. To some extent, Braff succeeded. Garden State's framing was frequently beautiful, unique and funny.
The result is a movie that lags in narrative (although there are some very tightly written scenes), but it absolutely triumphs in mood. Garden State is relentlessly melancholic and gentle, and creates strong emotional resonance as a result. It's filled with moments where you can see the craft that has been poured into a shot; you can see the hours it took to set up each moment. In an industry where time is money, these films are increasingly rare, especially in a Summer blockbuster. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty pleasingly breaks the mould.
Every frame of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is assembled for aesthetic beauty, and the result is a wonderfully compelling film. The script is well-written, but the narrative is densely predictable. It doesn't matter, because the entire thing is so well made that you get carried along. Director Ben Stiller has obviously worked tirelessly with Director of Photography Stuart Dryburgh. Both should get Oscar nom's.
It's difficult not to leave the cinema feeling inspired and happy. Much like Garden State, the prettiness of the picture makes the emotion swing home with ease. I'm reminded of Amelie too - a film so artfully made that it broke through the world cinema border and broke into the mainstream. You're forced to notice the craft in these films. Every scene reaches out to you and yells LOOK AT WHAT I'M DOING, LOOK HOW CLEVER I AM. It's a tricky game to play. You don't want to lose your audience in your proud showing off. There's a couple of scene transitions in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that are absolutely unnecessary, and would usually make me wriggle from the pretension, but they're executed so beautifully (and creatively), that you can't help but be obligingly amazed.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty shares further similarities with Amelie and Garden State by having a kick-arse soundtrack. More like a contemporary album (and a welcome return for Jose Gonzalez), it's music that marries the image and lifts you off the ground.
Walter Mitty is undoubtedly one of the year's best films, and grounds Stiller as a fantastic film director. The casting is dead on too, with Sean Penn playing his small part with such staggering cool that you just want to SHUT UP AND BE HIM.
You'll love it, and your parents will too. Also, buy the soundtrack after you watch it, and then make travel plans. Trust me.