Over the weekend, I finally saw ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ with a friend of mine. I was at first wary to see it and then I saw someone recommend it in a post on Instagram. I vaguely remember reading the 1939 short story by James Thurber for an assignment in high school but I had long-forgotten the plot, so I re-read it recently in hopes I would get a chance to see the movie.
I was not disappointed. The movie didn’t get amazing reviews, perhaps because, in the end, it’s just another romantic comedy. But, if you ignore that and find the creative, inspirational meaning the movie intends to reveal, then it’s worth a billion stars. Ben Stiller both directed the movie and plays Walter Mitty, a monotonous, misunderstood day-dreamer who works in the darkroom at the soon-to-be-shut-down Life magazine. Walter has a crush on a co-worker named Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), whom he tries to impress during his last assignment — the cover for the last print edition. However, he loses an important negative and has to chase its photographer around the world in order to save his job, and the magazine. And maybe get the girl too.
Throughout Walter’s journey, he is also searching for the “quintessence of life,” whether he realizes it or not. The movie reminds its viewers several times (and with clever typography, I might add) the motto of Life magazine:
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to,
to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each
other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”
The lines between Mitty’s imagination and reality are quite hazy. You would expect it to be chock-full of those stereotypical movie dream sequences with bright light, shallow depth of field and faded voices, but instead it seamlessly moves from daydream to real life to daydream. Every shot is a gorgeously saturated, postcard-perfect scene. It’s stunning. It’s enough to make you want to get out your camera, or perhaps to put it away and take in the beauty of the world for a moment.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I would definitely recommend it. The movie is a charming reminder to take risks and dare greatly. It made me think of that adage, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” If nothing else, Walter’s classic tale will encourage you to stop daydreaming and get moving, to listen to your inner voice and finally go on that adventure. Start exploring. Inspiration awaits, and maybe a little adrenaline too. // susannah