When watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I just thought that this movie is really a realisation of Ben Stiller’s off-screen and on-screen imaginations. As a director directing himself, his directing style reflects his visions about his own ambitious, daydreaming persona.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty isn’t a fresh meat at all. It’s not the first time for this loose adaptation on James Thurber’s short story to come to big screen, for it’s been filmed under the same title in 1947. However, this ageless adventure is basically suitable for timeless adaptations.
I can sense that its simple plot felt so close to our life–although, everything seems bigger on screen (literally and non-literally). Simply saying, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a negative assets manager of Life Magazine, lives his monotonous, full-pressured life. Dealing with tons of pictures about the greatest adventures a man can have without experiencing any of it has driven him into his wild, self-admiring daydreams.
His eventual rendezvous with crush of his life, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) and the acquisition of the company he works in push him to wake up from his daydreams and start adventuring real wild world. The upcoming shutdown of Time Magazine poses menaces for the magz to issue their last edition ever–while negative asset for the final cover was lost. Whether he likes it or not, Walter must pursue the legendary Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) to places beyond his own imagination.
This flick shows adjacency to its audience–drawing sympathy out of the protagonist. This adjacency exposes Stiller’s directing style; diminishing comedy parts and putting more CGI-dramatized action parts to highlight the adventure part of this tale. During the first half, these adrenaline-boosting CGI parts depicts Walter’s lame imagination–stunning but inhibiting the pace. On the second half, all action packs suddenly blast off (see iconic skateboarding scene and Greenland sea scenes).
Screened in ultra wide-shot depicting documentary-like landscapes, the picture makes all human characters looks like insects (thanks to Stuart Dryburgh for this cool cinematography). In addition, indie folk-and-rock melodic tunes and sweet dialogues switch the movie on–make it a revolutionary motion picture of motivations and fortunate events. All of which wrap the adventure the way adventure should be, like the motto of Life engraved in Walter’s wallet: “To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to, that is the purpose of life.“
Stiller’s approach as a director-actor has uniquely enriched Walter Mitty’s visuals and characters. Even so, this flick is not Stiller’s one-man show and not a character-ridden drama, yet, how Kristen Wiig’s Cheryl, Adam Scott’s Ted, and Sean Penn’s Sean really escalates Stiller’s Walter’s macro and micro adventure. As he goes beyond his mind and beyond the world he lives, he brings audiences into a warm quintessence in the end. A special quintessence that wraps everything the way the lost negative wraps the quintessence of life.
TITLE: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
GENRE: Drama, Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy | DIRECTOR: Ben Stiller | WRITERS: Steve Conrad, James Thurber (Short story)| DoP: Stuart Dryburgh | FILM EDITOR: Greg Hayden | MUSIC: Theodore Saphiro | CASTS: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn, Kathryn Hahn