wed 27/05/2020

DVD: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

DVD: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller’s heartfelt film is an exercise in adventure

Ben Stiller as the downtrodden daydreamer, Walter Mitty

Have you ever had one of those moments where your imagination has played out a situation the way you wish it had been? A witty comeback after a putdown, an irresistible one-liner after a brutal rejection. Meet Walter Mitty, full-time negative asset manager for Life magazine; part-time idealist who lives out his fantasies whilst appearing to be in some sort of trance.

Have you ever had one of those moments where your imagination has played out a situation the way you wish it had been? A witty comeback after a putdown, an irresistible one-liner after a brutal rejection. Meet Walter Mitty, full-time negative asset manager for Life magazine; part-time idealist who lives out his fantasies whilst appearing to be in some sort of trance.

In the first and most exciting of these daydreams we see Mitty take a running leap from the train station platform to dive into a burning building. He emerges from the explosion with his co-worker's three-legged dog and wins Cheryl Melhoff's (Kristen Wiig's) heart. They are in the middle of a nasty redundancy process, slaves to the mercy of a particularly snarky director.

Ben Stiller as Walter MittyThe story hangs on Mitty’s pursuit of the swarthy and allusive photographer, Sean O’Connell, acted with an appropriate amount of rugged existentialism by Sean Penn. Mitty, played with earnest equanimity by Ben Stiller (who also directs), is the epitome of pallid, grey, mundanity. His transition from a safe-playing, suit-wearing desker to swarthy world traveller, with a twinkle in his eye and a story in his hip flask is whimsical. At the beginning of the film he has all the pizazz of John Major. By the end, a friend describes him as “Indiana Jones crossed with the lead singer of The Strokes”. It’s totally preposterous.

A re-make of the 1939 original by James Thurber, Stiller has updated the story working it around the online dating site Eharmony and throwing in a multitude of contemporary references, including a creepy Benjamin Button skit that I’m surprised didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.

Believing in the plot requires leaps of faith as wide as Stiller’s gait, as he runs, almost Forrest Gump-style, headfirst into action – firstly in his wildest fantasies of getting the girl, telling his boss where to go, and doing something more with his life – and then in reality, living the experiences he’s always dreamed of but have somehow got lost along the way. It’s not the plot we need to believe in, it’s the notion of escape and fulfillment, whatever your age or direction. O’Connell tells him that “beautiful things don’t ask for attention” and it’s this simple, uplifting understanding that is inspiring, in its own sweet, unusual way.

It’s not the plot we need to believe in, it’s the notion of escape and fulfillment, whatever your age or direction

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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