“To see and be amazed”: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Not a single picture I include in this post will accurately capture the amazing beauty and scale that is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It is one of those films that filled me, who has never left the continental United States, with an immense feeling of wanderlust; a desire see the world, have adventures, and be a part of something. It was a perfect Christmas film, even though if you would have asked me originally I would have said there was no way I would be seeing anything other than Wolf of Wall Street today. (Don’t worry, Leo soon.)

I’m so glad for the choice I made (or I should say was made by my sister) because Walter Mitty is a fantastic film. To sum it up in one sentence it is about a dreamer who decides to stop dreaming and start living. But one sentence could never do justice to a film like Walter Mitty and honestly wouldn’t make for a very good blog post because there is so much more to the film than that. On many levels it hit very close to home for me as a 20-something-trying-to-find-herself more than say Inside Llewyn Davis did because it is about finding yourself and dreaming and doing and connection and love and life and was just generally much more hopeful and uplifting than the later. Walter had dreams and life, like it always does, got in the way. He stands in front of a backpack he was going to use to hike around Europe and never got to. That scene hit me like a ton of bricks. No one wants to live with regrets and being  young there are so many things I want to do so imagining this happening in the near future was slightly depressing. This is one of those films that whispers, “You can do anything,” while not being overly hokey about it.

Ben Stiller is one of those few actors I don’t really have an opinion about, but I liked his performance in this film and was especially impressed with the fact that he directed. Also, after reading about the potential people tied to this film as it was going through pre-production including Jim Carey (ew no), Mike Meyers (please tell me that was a joke), Sasha Baron Cohen (getting warmer), and Owen Wilson (that actually wouldn’t have been too bad), I think Stiller was the best choice. His Mitty is a relatable everyman who also happens to look really good in big sweaters and scruffy beards. You want to root for him. You want him to punch that guy from Parks and Rec Adam Scott in the face and watch him get the girl-being Kristen Wiig’s Cheryl Melhoff. I enjoyed seeing a toned down, subtle Wiig in this role. I’ve seen some reviews call her  misused but she doesn’t have to play an over the top character all the time to get attention on screen.

As a director I think Stiller had a lot of things going for him, the first being the amazing landscape of Iceland. This film should probably be used in all promotional material for the country from now on because it made me want to buy a plane ticket straight away. It is seriously one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in a film, I cannot even imagine what it looks like in real life. Some of the credit for capturing those landscapes also has to go to cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh because the environment of the film plays such a big role in allowing the viewer to get lost and swept up in the beauty of life.

Another thing Stiller does really well is create a sense of magical realism in his film. The scenes transition so well from dream to reality that there are some moments when you can’t even tell them apart. Mitty himself is even surprised when awesome things happen in his real life because he is so used to them only taking place in his head. When those shifts between dreams and reality stop occurring it isn’t a surprise because they happened so smoothly in the first place; it isn’t until Mitty realize he hasn’t been zoning out that we see his growth as a character.

Besides the acting and directing and the beautiful setting, the main thing I want to talk about in Walter Mitty is the music. Besides Inside Llewyn Davis and Gravity, no film has touched me with their use of music  this year as much as this one did. There is just something about uplifting travel/following your dreams/jumping out of planes or hiking mountains montages in films that get me every time. The second I heard the opening chords of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” (best used in  the trailer for Spike Jonze’s 2009 Where the Wild Things Are), I knew I was going to lose it. I teared up four times throughout the film and most of it had to do with the choice of music; from the trailer’s use of  Of Monsters and Men alone I knew I was going to like the music and I was not disappointed. The credits after the film was one of those rare times I’ve seen an audience not get up (besides Marvel movies). Everyone seemed transfixed (and rightly so) by Jose Gonzalez and the final images on the screen.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a great way to cure post-Christmas blues because it is one of those films that makes you want to on an adventure and find love and have hope for the future and just happy to be alive. That’s something we could all use a little more of.

Rating: 

Needs Milk

(4.5/5 because I have a hard time giving out perfect scores)

Final Words

  • My two favorite lines: “Stay golden, Ponyboy” for its classic nature and “You know who looks good in a beard? Dumbledore, not you,” for pure hilarity
  • My favorite character was a tie between the helicopter pilot and the guy on the boat who mad all the American jokes before asking Walter to be his friend on Facebook
  • I had no idea Stiller directed Zoolander until I IMDb-ed him
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