Movie review: the secret life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller, Kristin Wiig, Shirley Mclaine, Sean Penn
Walter Mitty led a gray little life of dutiful work, and daydreamed a lot. He wanted to be adventurous, to get to the essence of life, to fully live, and to matter. Like Todd, the internet dating services guy said, we “imagined (him) like a little grey picture, buy he was…so full if color and life.
His life was catapulted forwards by his apparent misplacement of a photo while working at the old photojournalism leader, LIFE magazine. Finding that photo led him to find the essence of his life, and that he truly, deeply mattered to many people.
The support of Sean Penn, as the photog, gave counterpoint to Walter, pulling him out of his shell and giving him cause to expose his vitality.
The music for this movie was integral to the creation of mood, and even telling the story. Indeed, a major plot turn was written around David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. Ranging from modern emo/evocative psalms as “The wolves and the ravens” by Rogue Valley and “Stay Alive” by Jose Gonzalez / Junip are crucial to moving the mood and telling the story. Aided also by landscape-written aphorisms and prompts, the whole world is pulling for our guy.
Walter Mitty’s story is an old American allegory from TIME’s great story teller James Thurber has been part of my life as an American for as long as I can recall. It brings the “can do” spirit back from the rugged frontier and restores it to the city from which it sprang … New York. Though this is a very different spin on the story than Thurber wrote, does justice to the idea of Mitty while it fits the current times.
The urban centers may have spread since the frontier days, but the urbanized feeling has not diminished. We are social and urban beings, getting together for protection and opportunity, financial and cultural development. Though cities often suppress expression, they also foster bravery. One such squashed person was Mitty, until a woman inspired him to chase that missing negative. His search for the negative’s creator led him to… himself.
This rendering of the Mitty story clearly comes with a twist away from Thurber’s Walter: our protagonist becomes a hero, he makes good and (ahem) gets the girl. By not listening to the negative voices, the limits were no longer there for him, instead he followed his dreams. Words like “you can’t” and “not me” melted away from his world, and his brave spirit went out to follow his inspiration. Don’t be a dreamer, Mitty, go out and live your life!