Why The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is Awesome

A surprisingly warm and intelligent film, that is so much more than expected

Look up Walter Mitty in the dictionary and you will find this description – an ordinary, timid person who is given to adventurous and self-aggrandizing daydreams or secret plans as a way of glamorizing a humdrum life. The story of Walter Mitty is so famous that it has been forever immortalised in the English dictionary. The original The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was the title of a short story by James Thurber published in 1939. In 1947 it was made into a film starring Danny Kaye, which was very well received.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (from now on referred to as T.S.L.O.W.M. due to its length) remake had been on the drawing board for some time before it finally found its makers; names such as Johnny Depp, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg had been attached at one time or another. But Ben Stiller as the director AND star? The actor from Zoolander (2001) and Meet the Fockers (2004), does not exactly have the resume that one would expect for a film of this magnitude, but boy has he showed all those who may have doubted him.

T.S.L.O.W.M. is a wonderfully uplifting film, with plenty of humour in it - but it is not the comedy some may expect from Stiller - so much heart and a surprising amount of depth, considering its premise. Walter Mitty (Stiller) is a socially awkward man who works with negative photos in the basement of Life magazine’s offices. He lives a very solitary, boring life and has taken to daydreaming more exciting scenarios to get through the day. This trait is very noticeable to those around him as he literally zones out even in mid conversation.

 

Walter’s habit of zoning out has become noticeable to his colleagues

Life magazine is changing, moving with the times and shutting down its printed magazine to re-emerge online. With this change comes the loss of jobs decided by utter douchebag Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) and the all-important cover of the last issue. Walter is sent negatives by the infamous guerrilla photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) with number 25 being his best yet and perfect for the final cover photo. The only problem is it isn’t there; after speaking to his mother (Shirley MacLaine in a small but meaningful role) and the woman he has a huge crush on (Kristen Wiig in a performance downplaying her comic chops) Walter decides to take his life into his own hands and track down the negative himself. This is where the story truly begins: when we first meet Walter the tone and the colours portrayed are grey and beige but as soon as Walter starts to experience life we are bathed in amazing colour. The cinematography is superb, and it really is like every dreamers travel guide. We get the scenic route through some truly beautiful places and the panoramic angles used are breath-taking - so much so that many people I’m sure will go home after viewing the movie and book a holiday, some to the places shown in the movie.

I’m not ashamed to say Ben Stiller has never seemed so attractive

Ben Stiller has really pulled out all the stops with this one and it really pays off. It is not only the visuals that are astounding, the story is really a message to the audience: don’t watch your life pass by, go out and really live it. The whole films abides by this, and the daydreams Walter imagines are surreal and, yes, portray a more exciting and adventurous life, but it is when we see the real experiences he goes through that we really get a spectacle. Proving that sometimes life is even better than anything you can dream up for yourself, you just have to be willing to give it a try.

Stiller is actually not only the perfect director for this film - as he adds a great indie quality to such a massive movie, but he also turns out to be the perfect guy to play Walter Mitty. He is magical in the part of a man who is unhappy with his circumstances, grits his teeth and takes the plunge and ends up a better man for it. He has added his own personal touch to the story, the direction and the performance; his is an original effort which seems to have only the title and daydreams in common with the 1947 version. It is an impressive rarity to add to the Hollywood roster of sequels prequels and remakes (mostly superhero) that we are bombarded with throughout the year.

Stiller is in pretty much every scene, but there are many great performers amongst him in this film - the funniest being Patton Oswalt as Tod, a stranger who works on Walter’s eHarmony account and hilariously calls at the most awkward times. There is also a fantastic soundtrack/score on this film that really places you in the locations with Walter.

Stiller puts in an A* performance in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

This is a very inspirational movie with a very heartfelt ending and really makes you want to do more with your life. I use the word genuine a lot but I have never meant it more; this is a genuinely great movie, and you should seriously check it out.

This has been Mary for The Awesome Update

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