Thursday, January 16, 2014

not really a review - the secret life of walter mitty

As Melbournites will know we are in the midst of (hopefully actually exactly half way through) a heatwave, and it has been very tough going, so this evening I went to the Palace Cinemas in Balwyn to see American Hustle, even though the Palace Cinemas website had the strangest blurb:

A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation,AMERICAN HUSTLE tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld...

If I need to point out why that is freaky, well, first of all, the obvious one: 'Our nation?' Really? I haven't actually seen the film but I get the sense at least from the title it's set in America, and while we might have enormous affection for it here, I don't think we're quite ready to call 'America' (NB not a nation, but forget that) 'ours'. Secondly, 'the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals'... what could that mean? A harder one to pin down for stupidity, true, but still probz pinnable. (And another thing... 'a fictional film'? But the scandal rocked 'our nation', didn't it?)


I wouldn't blame American Hustle for having something stupid written about it, but I am not sure I want to give Palace Cinemas my money, considering how little attention they pay to their website. I mean that ridiculous thing about the Westgarth Cinema being 'inspired' by Walter Burley Griffin - if that building was inspired by WBG, then it's time to rewrite the entire history of art nouveau. But I digress.

Alright, so the Palace website was coy about whether American Hustle was on at Palace Balwyn or not. It sort of was, when you looked at it one way, and then wasn't when you looked at it another. I decided that on balance it probably wasn't, but on the other hand, it could be. But if it wasn't, there was another film - The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - and the ads for that looked pretty OK as a film you'd go and see on the big screen when you were going to the movies primarily to get into an air-conditioned environment. 

I had half an hour before the film started when I got there and I had kind of hoped to have some dinner but nuh-uh, there was nothing open in Whitehorse Road apart from the chip shop so I just went to Woolworths and got some fancy juice, which was fine. And then I went to the cinema and sure enough no American Hustle. What is this, some kind of conspiracy to deprive me of Australian history? I made a comment to the box office/candy bar/wine 'n' coffee milkshake bar guy about the website mixed-messages and he laughed like, he couldn't give a loose root and why would he. He was charging me an arm and a leg to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and it wasn't even like it made any difference to him monetarily whether I saw it, or anything, or not.

OK. Once in the cinema, there was an ad for Honda with a pair of hands shaping all these Honda vehicles real and imagined. It was one of the most incredibly long and dull things I had ever experienced, and I've seen some things. There was a quite good ad for not drinking and driving though (it was young people dressed up as Wizard of Oz characters; I particularly liked the incredibly stilted line delivery of the 'wizard' taxi driver). Then there was the film.

The film was actually pretty great. It's so nice to have no expectations (except that there'd be some visceral thrills) and it has that, so, amazing scenery and some mindbending concepts like that you could take a helicopter from Greenland to a boat that's just a few hours sail from Iceland... well, I guess I don't know for sure about that, but I bet it's not possible. But along with that, it is a sweet, trippy kind of lightly humorous film that I found really engaging. Looked great, almost every scene. And the scene with Ben Stiller and Sean Penn is really funny; and Kristen Wiig is really good in almost anything; and, well, even though I was confused about what hipster beards & then (in the later scenes) beards that aren't hipster but which you get because you just haven't had a way to shave because you've been in Afghanistan/detention are supposed to mean, nevertheless I enjoyed the bearded corporate hipster douches too. I loved the Greenland and Iceland scenes (all of which, I suspect, were filmed in Iceland - possibly even the Afghanistan scenes too because Afghanistan wasn't listed as a location at the end any more than Greenland was). 

So ultimately, I think I would recommend this film as a very entertaining way to stay out of muggy, oppressive heat, and it does have some humorous moments and it also has some spectacular moments, and some decent music, and as far as I can tell the most tenuous link to the real Secret Life of Walter Mitty that it was barely even worth calling it that, but maybe I should reread that story, and be surprised. 

The Patton Oswald scene was really good too. 

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