There is always a flood of movies that come out on Christmas Day and if the theater that I was at was any indication, an evening film after the post-presents and gluttony is the cure. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was one of five films to be released on Christmas Day and my choice. It is the ideal movie for this time of year as people beginning to look back and forward all at the same time. Ben Stiller’s direction is superb in a movie that could have come off as schmaltzy and trite. Instead it shines like a Christmas star. This movie does for Stiller what Stranger Than Fiction did for Will Ferrell, presenting us with a whole different side to his acting repertoire. His understated performance captures your attention and carries this film beautifully. The movie is artistically shot and crafted adding to the heart and message perfectly. This is a movie that Hollywood use to be able to make with ease, before cynicism and dark heroes ruled the screen and it is the antidote that has sorely been needed.
Fathers Are Missed:
There has been a theme of fatherhood running through many of the films that I have reviewed this year and Walter Mitty is no exception. Walter lost his father at the age of sixteen and it impacted him enormously. Before his father died he was carefree and full of life. Sporting a mohawk and and a skateboard Walter was very close to his father. He was free to be himself and find his full potential, knowing that his father was behind him every step of the way. When his father dies, the family finds themselves in financial trouble and the very next day Walter gets a hair cut and a job, vowing never to be insecure financially again. As Walter grows up he looses a part of himself. He plays life safe and his only escape are his daydreams.
It is beautiful to see a movie showing how important fathers are to young boys as they become men. Walter has someone to show him what it means to be a man as well as come into his own, until his father dies. This loss takes away his mentor and security, causing Walter to withdraw and lose his ability to risk in life. It takes life being turned upside down for Walter to understand how important risk and human connection are truly are.
Adventure and the Great Unknown:
“To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to, to draw closer, to see and be amazed.”
Mitty lives in a world where it is easy to hide. The internet age has made it so easy to put up a digital facade and never really interact with a real person. The movie humorously portrays this in his online dating profile. Walter can’t think of anything worthy of putting on his profile and because of this is unable to leave a “wink” on a coworkers page. When he calls the support line for the site the customer service rep asks him why he doesn’t just talk to her in real life. As fate would have it, they are thrown together as Walter must search for a missing photo that is meant to be the cover of Life magazines final issue. Through his connection with Cheryl and the support of Sean O’Connell (the photographer who’s picture Walter cannot find), Walter discovers the courage to live a life he has only envisioned in his daydreams.
The motto for Life magazine above is a perfect representation of the movies main theme; life is not meant to be lived in a cocoon but meant to be experienced in all it’s brilliantly messy glory. So often we do as Walter, neglecting connections with people and burry ourselves in self-protecting isolation. Unwilling to take risks, we miss the best parts of our existence. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty reminds us to seize life as it comes by drawing closer to others and being amazed at the grandeur that is in every single moment.