Sometimes I see a trailer for a film and I just know that I'm going to love the movie. The most recent screen adaptation of James Thurber's short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, falls under that category.
Ben Stiller stars as Walter Mitty, a man stuck in his routine and responsibilities, who daydreams of a more spectacular life. Mitty has built a career at Life Magazine and he is about to be pushed outside of his comfort zone, as his job is up for elimination when the final print version of Life Magazine is announced. Mitty's job is to care for negatives and he cannot find a irreplaceable negative from a famous photographer that was to be the final cover photo. Panicking, Mitty hastily embarks on a quest to hunt down the missing negative. Mitty, who has previously only traveled to Phoenix, finds himself far from home and on the adventure of a life time.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a beautiful film. Visually, it's stunning, especially as Mitty finds himself traveling to Greenland and Iceland. However, the film is also beautiful for its message regarding learning to live life fully. This is the perfect movie to see this time of the year as people are making their resolutions. The main take-away is to embrace life and especially the people that you encounter.
Sean Penn plays the photographer that Mitty is desperately seeking and he had a great line about putting down his camera during moments of profound significance. He would rather experience the moment fully, than spend the moment focused on capturing the shot. I felt like this was a good reminder for everyone, especially when we are all so used to documenting everything on Facebook or Instagram. Having the experience is better than documenting the experience.
I really liked how the film used ordinary people in the smaller roles. It made for many moments that felt genuine.
I loved about 90% of this film. There were several scenes early in the movie that felt jarring and didn't fit the overall tone of the film. These were primarily Mitty's fantasy sequences, that were often very outlandish and tried hard to be funny, but fell flat. In particular, there was a cringe worthy scene involving Mitty's love interest (Kristen Wiig) in which the two reenacted a scene from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It felt like a SNL sketch and was just ridiculous. The movie was often so poignant and subtly funny, that it didn't need these types of scenes. They didn't fit with the overall tone of the film.
The title sequences and the use of the Life Magazine mission statement were well utilized to push the themes of the movie. It was clever how Thurber's story was updated to incorporate modern themes of corporate downsizing and technology, with the ideals Life Magazine holds as its core. This newest version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is relevant and solid storytelling. Stiller not only starred as Mitty, but directed and produced the film.
Overall, great film and definitely one to see on the big screen.