The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

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The office were concerned over Mitty's obsession with the water cooler.
The office were concerned over Mitty’s obsession with the water cooler.

Twitter Plot Summary: Walter Mitty escapes from his mundane life and goes on a real world adventure seeking a missing photograph.

Genre: Adventure/Comedy/Drama/Fantasy

Director: Ben Stiller

Key Cast: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly, Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt, Sean Penn

Five Point Summary:

1. That’s a rather overactive imagination…
2. Is that shark real?
3. Ground Control to Major Tom…
4. Sean Penn. Howdy.
5. That final cover of the magazine. Yeah, makes sense.

Another month, another secret screening from Cineworld. This time for a film due to be released in a month’s time (or thereabouts as of the date this review goes live). The film of course, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by and starring Ben Stiller as a man who has long since descended into a less than exciting existence that leads him to frequent and elaborate daydreams. He then discovers that Life Magazine, for whom he works, is about to be closed down. But there’s a problem – the cover photo for the final issue is missing and Mitty has to try and locate it. This leads him off on a journey of discovery, both literally and figuratively, as he tries to locate the photo, the guy who took said photo, and also re-learn a few things about himself as he does so.

There are times when the story seems to want to play to conventional means and tell the same old story we’ve seen time and time again, but to its credit it decides to weave its own path and ends up being a film that is hard to pigeonhole to a specific genre. I think gently humorous drama is the closest you can get to a description. It’s funny in places but not likely to incite riotous laughter in the audience. Mitty’s tendency to daydream, it transpires, is a result of his father’s death many years previously. His was a childhood with many opportunities available to him, which following his father’s death was switched off in favour of supporting his family and the cold reality of needing to earn money in order to survive. The quest for the missing photograph helps him rediscover those elements of himself that he’s buried for so long. As he gets to see more of the world and do things he never thought possible his daydreaming gradually starts to decrease and becomes less bombastic, blurring the line between reality and fantasy.

"That's no moon..."
“That’s no moon…”

Within this story is also Mitty’s romantic interest in new co-worker Cheryl, played by Kristen Wiig. His interest in her embodies most of his daydreams, and also inspires him to press forward and do things in the real world. There were a few moments at first where it wasn’t clear if Mitty’s adventures were in the real world or simply extended daydreams, but that small matter is soon glossed over and ultimately isn’t important. There’s another important sub-plot where Mitty uses the eHarmony online dating service which provides a number of laughs and sterling support from Patton Oswalt. You may think the resolution to this sub-plot is somewhat far-fetched, but then it would be entirely in keeping with the tone established throughout the film.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed it. I imagine that it’s going to be a devisive film, particularly if viewed by people who are either expecting a full-on character drama or even those perhaps expecting an old-school Stiller comedy. Walter Mitty is neither of these but exists in some limbo state between the two. The initial trailers emphasise his rather excessive daydreams, but that’s really not the focus. Yes they’re reasonably epic in scope compared to his mundane existence, but they aren’t the focus nor should they be considered as the focus. It’s all about Mitty himself. That’s probably worth keeping in mind when you see it. You never know, you might end up enjoying it.

Favourite scene: Mitty encounters a drunk helicopter pilot in Greenland.

Quote: “Hi, do you have any cars available?”

“Yeah. We have a blue one and a red one.”

“…I’ll take the red one.”

Silly Moment:  All of Mitty’s daydreams

Score: 3.5/5

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