Daydreaming. We all do it, but maybe not quite as intensely as Walter Mitty. Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) leads a pretty ordinary life, passionate about his job as photo editor at the now-defunct Life Magazine. Every so often he lets his imagination run wild, which he is ridiculed for by their new boss Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott). One day, he finds himself about to embark on a real adventure and the craziness that ensues teaches us a few things about living and not just dreaming your way through life.
I won’t reveal any more about the plot. I want you to experience the movie like I did. Clueless. The trailers gave nothing away, the movie posters made even less sense and it seemed like an odd film. Visually it’s on point, sometimes subtle, sometimes over the top, but breathtaking and seamless. It reminded me of Life of Pi in its grand use of imagery. Kudos to Stuart Dryburgh, Jeff Mann and team. Even the title sequence at the start and finish by Luke Cooper is simple but effective. Walter Mitty has a few amazing escapes to fantasy land, including one fight sequence with his boss that is so well produced that it would rival most superhero bust-ups already seen so far.
Written by Steven Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness), directed by Ben Stiller and with a fantastic cast, this is a loosely-based commendable adaptation of James Thurber’s short novel and pays homage to the 1947 original. Speaking of acting, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) is seemingly a one-dimensional character that becomes more fleshed out as the film progresses warranting a place as Mitty’s love interest. Sean Penn is fantastic as the intrepid legendary photographer Sean O’Connell and does a lot with the little screen time he is given. Adam Scott is the delightfully horrible boss from hell, in sharp contrast to Walter’s sweet and supportive mother Edna (Shirley Maclaine) and struggling-actor sister Odessa (Kathryn Hahn). Not forgetting to mention, the brilliant roles from the colourful people Walter encounters along the way including eHarmony technician Todd (played to comical effect by Patton Oswalt).
This film has been in the making for almost 2 decades with various directors and leading actors wanting to try their hand, but it wasn’t until Ben Stiller came onboard in 2011 that things changed. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s been in incubation for so long which explains why it seems ethereal, almost outside of time. It’s not perfect – there are some outlandish situations, it feels like it’s trying too hard, the script is not exemplary, the plot twist saccharine but it is far from mediocre. It’s not the usual fare cinema-goers have come to expect and it offers something unique.
Stiller, in a surprisingly dramatic, subtle performance, did an incredible job, donning many hats, and has produced one of my favourite films of 2013. It’s a feel-good movie literally (it created 15000 jobs and took thousands of hours to make it), released just in time for the festive season. It returned to me something I hadn’t realised I had let go of – my passion for travelling and seeing the world. This is not a film for over-analysis, it’s just to be enjoyed as one that reminds us not live life just in our heads, or through our technology. Be here, now. Go with it, get caught up in its beauty, its humour and its heart, and it’ll be an inspiring, wonderful ride.
What did you think? A life worth discovering or best left a secret? Your turn on the soapbox in 3, 2, 1.