Day 163: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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It’s been almost a month since I had a movie night at home. After weeks of watching the Best Picture nominated movies, I took a break. But tonight it felt right to bring home a DVD. I loved the trailers for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which released in theaters in December of 2013. I missed it at the local theater, so this evening, I was excited to watch this film for today’s first.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty stars Ben Stiller, who also directed the movie, Kristen Miig, Shirley MacLaine, Sean Penn and Adam Scott. It is rated PG and has a run time of 1 hour and 54 minutes. It is classified as an adventure-comedy-drama.

Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, is an average, unassuming man, living an average, anonymous life. He works at Life Magazine, which is about to publish its last print magazine before becoming an online publication. He is a daydreamer, often going into “the zone” where he lives out the life he’s afraid to live in the real world. In his imagination, he is an explorer, a lover, a hero. He’s interested in his co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff, portrayed wonderfully by Kristen Miig, but he’s afraid to engage her beyond casual chit chat.

Walter’s job is tedious but important. He’s the negative assets manager, with the job of preparing the negatives of the famous Life photos for print. He has had a long working relationship with independent photographer Sean O’Connell, who had mailed Walter his last batch of negatives for print. Included in the package is a note stating that negative #25 is intended for the cover of Life’s last magazine. It is his best work. Also in the package is a gift for Walter, a wallet, as a token of appreciation for all the collaborative work between the two.

Negative #25 is missing, however. With downsizing taking place in the company, Walter’s job and reputation are at stake. He must find the negative. A search begins to find the elusive photographer, played by Sean Penn. Driven by his need to find Sean, and locate the missing negative, Walter overcomes his shyness to form a friendship with Cheryl, who has offered to help him figure out where the photographer might be. Walter must step out into the real world and embarks on an adventure that is so much more amazing than the fantasies that occupied his mind.

This was a wonderful film, funny, touching, thought provoking. I loved the quote that Sean tucked into the gift wallet for Walter. It is the motto for Life Magazine (the movie version, not the actual motto for the actual magazine….I like the fictionalized one better!).

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.

Walter has only seen the world vicariously, through Sean’s photos. He’s afraid of dangerous things, afraid to draw closer. He’s afraid to feel. He lost his father at a young age. As a result, he gave up his individuality, his creativity and his desire to travel, to work in mind numbing jobs. I enjoyed the transformation of the hesitant daydreamer into the self confident journeyer. He found his courage, both to really live, and to draw close enough to love.

I enjoyed too the use of synchronicity throughout the film. For the characters, these were clues to discover the whereabouts of Sean. But they were more than that. These signs and wonders and connected events opened the way for Walter to not only find the photographer, but to find himself.  Negative #25 and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are about the quintessence of life, the fullness and richness of life. It’s important to dream, and dream big.  Even more important is to find the courage to actually live those dreams, one step, one adventure, at a time.

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