The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Directed by Ben Stiller
Written by Steve Conrad
Starring Ben Stiller, Kristin Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn, and Shirley MacLaine
Release date: December 25, 2013
Ben Stillerâ€™s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a common, oft-heard message masquerading as an insight.
To be fair, the message is a sound one â€” one weâ€™ve all heard countless times â€” but one that few of us heed: Live. Live your life. Get out there and experience it. In order to remind us of that message, superimposed text graphics that feel like theyâ€™re from a â€œJust Do Itâ€ Nike commercial, are peppered throughout.
Again, while the sentiment is worthy, I fretted our culture has cultivated an audience for material that feels pithy, but is anything but. In short, the suggestion that theyâ€™ve experienced something deep and enriching is enough to make them believe they actually have.
That said, the impetus for Mittyâ€™s action concerns the demise of Life Magazine (get it?), and in a subliminal context, print media. This subject matter, in better hands with a different agenda, could make for a potent film. There is something inherently wonderful about reading printed materials, and about the craft that used to go into their creation â€” a level of craft that simply cannot exist in the online paradigm, with its continuous need to churn out â€œcontent.â€
Back to the story at hand. Sean Penn appears as a reclusive photographer â€” an artiste â€” which borders on an exaggerated take on his real-life perception as a pretentious blowhard. It is Mittyâ€™s quest to find him that propels the story from one big scene to another, leading him toâ€¦
The big reveal, which turned out be completely anti-climatic. The movie was building towards it, and clearly, Stiller was going for an epiphany. From the muted response at the screening I attended, he blew it, giving his character gravitas that was never there.
One distracting element, but a major facet of the story: Walterâ€™s fantasies; zoning out in front of people talking to him, would have them wondering if he had a serious neurological disorder, in need of urgent treatment.