So....is it just me that I find it a bit pretentious when the director of a movie is also the lead of the same movie and has all the other actors in the movie tell him how awesome he is in the movie? Well that's what happens in this. Ben Stiller directs and stars in the secret life. And just about everyone else in the movie at some point or another tells him wow you're awesome! Or something along those lines. I was surprised at how much that took me out of it. But besides that, this is seriously the Ben Stiller midlife crisis movie. He gets to turn himself into the hero of the movie, and you are most certainly expected to root for him. And damn does it beat you over the head with it's "finding yourself" theme. HERE! FEEL EMOTIONAL. LEARN SOMETHING. The movie is pretty far up its own ass. It's sad.
So, here are the few positives. One, the movie is GORGEOUS to look at. Some of the best cinematography of the year. The movie takes place at various locations in New Zealand and Iceland, and Stuart Dryburgh does a phenomenal job to capture the beauty of these locations. One scene in particular has Stiller skateboarding through Iceland (I think) on his way to a mountain, and the shots there are absolutely breathtaking. I want to go to Iceland now. And this is virtually the only positive. Oh! The soundtrack was cool. Definitely continued beating you over the head with the "finding yourself" thing, but it was a very indie/Of Monsters and Men soundtrack. I like indie. And Of Monsters and Men. So I liked it.
Ok negatives. So....the acting was very subpar. The movie has a good cast. Stiller is leading the way but Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, and Sean Penn are great actors to complement, but only Sean Penn puts in a memorable performance. Of all of them. Stiller in a serious role doesn't really work. I'll take watching Tropic Thunder any day in his case. Next, the story is definitely overlong. But that's because it's a 32 page short story turned into a 114 minute film. And like I said, it's definitely too much about the theme. Every scene has something to do with the theme of finding yourself. Somehow. It's borderline amazing. But it's definitely a movie that is made for the holiday season. It's an unofficial Christmas movie. That's what we'll call it.
Now I'm not saying this is a bad movie. Well I kind of am. But I can definitely see how people will like this movie. And you might too. This movie just got too pretentious for me. And predictable. I literally called the ending about 15 minutes into the movie. I don't usually do that but it was so incredibly predictable that I just couldn't help myself. But still, if you like Ben Stiller or want to watch a movie that will give you the feels, I would recommend it. Otherwise your time is better spent elsewhere.
The Critique: The official Ben Stiller midlife crisis movie. Pretentious and self-aware, this predictable movie is nothing but a forgettable man-discovers-himself story. And thus is a very forgettable movie.
The Recommendation: if you want a movie with feels or really like Ben Stiller, check it out. Otherwise, go see American Hustle. Or Frozen if you are looking for a kids movie. So much better.
The Verdict: 3.5/10 Pretty Bad
Oscar Talk: Should get nominated for Cinematography. And maybe Adopted Screenplay.