Monday, February 3, 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The secret life of Walter Mitty - 114min – PG

I am not a huge Ben Stiller fan; most of his work is either hit or miss with me (mostly miss). This movie speaks to me. I truly enjoyed the message this story tells. There are some mild problems with the way this story is told but I really love the characters. The message of stop dreaming and start living are what resonate most with me. This is such a strong message, I hope people will not be bogged down by technical details. When it comes to movies that touch my heart, I am an easy sell for a green light. Go ahead and hate me for it but I can’t help loving this movie and what it stands for.

Walter (Ben Stiller) is a man who for the past 16 years has worked for LIFE magazine. They are going through a transition from a print publication to an online publication. He is in charge of prepping the cover picture for the last issue ever printed. There is a problem: the negative for the picture is missing. Walter has to take action find the missing slide.

Walter lost his father when he was a teenager and has been responsible for helping provide for his family and has never really had his own life. To escape reality he spends long moments standing in a daze lost in a daydream of what he would like to have happen.

Walter has a crush on Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), a woman from work. She uses an online dating service and he joins the same dating company hoping to use it to connect. When he tries to contact her through the sight he gets an error message because he doesn’t have anything in his profile. He contacts support where Todd (Patton Oswalt) from the customer service department helps him fill out his online form. It’s through Todd’s eyes we see Walter’s inadvertent growth from dreamer to doer. Todd really understands the change he sees in Walter. I think it would be very therapeutic to meet Mr. Oswalt in an airport and have a Cinnabon and some words of encouragement.

Kristen Wiig vexes me. I disliked her work on SNL because she was never very funny to me. At times her skit characters were painful to watch. However on the big screen, I completely fall in love with her. She shines with honest feelings and natural beauty. She is pure cinema gold. Ms. Wiig, please don’t ever make a SNL based move on your characters. Keep doing new stuff because you are talented.

This is directed by Ben Stiller and you can see his passion for this story come through in his acting and the overall emotion of the film. Most critics aren’t going to like it because of story problems, but I think they are not looking at the soul of the film. I acknowledge the problems but I love the message so I had to write this up right after watching it. Of course it took me about a month to post it but that’s beside the point.

The central message is that we try very hard to look for the things that are meaningful in our loves ever if they are hidden in the secret pockets of our wallets. This is not a spoiler because it’s completely telegraphed in the movie. I don’t think that it was poor storytelling; I think this was obvious on purpose. The journey of the story is more important than the destination. Walter learns a lot on this trip and we make a connection to him because he does what want to do, learn his place in this world. Kind of like us, we don’t need to travel the world to find the answers we are looking for. Our answers are right here, in our country, our states, and towns and even in our own homes.

The underlying message with this film is we need to break out of the rut life puts us in. Try something new, have the courage to make connections with other people. Eat at a new locally owned restaurant you drive past almost every day. Go out to the farmers market try some fresh food and look at handmade crafts. Look at your community and see if there are new cultural events around that will expose you to a new culture, take a martial arts class in an art you have always wanted to study. It doesn't matter what you do, it just matters you do something.

I might be reading way too much into this, but that’s the impression this movie left with so I am going to take a chapter out of Walter’s book and go have dinner at a new place tonight and then go explore some parts of the town I don’t normally see. And book a flight to India. Yes you can look around locally at changing your life, but why not go big? Wish me luck.