Cheryl: Life is about courage and going into the unknown.
It can be said that Ben Stiller’s best films have been the ones he has personally directed. From REALITY BITES to the universally loved, ZOOLANDER, to the critically-acclaimed TROPIC THUNDER, Stiller has cemented his status as a well regarded director. The latest in his oeuvre, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY, is a marked change from his previous efforts however. Adapted from James Thurber’s 1939 short story, which was previously made into a film in 1947 with Danny Kaye, MITTY is a nostalgic look to a not-so-distant past where print journalism, photographic images, and boundless imagination are celebrated. One can say that this is Stiller’s mountainous leap towards exclaiming an almost sad, yet mature worldview. Shortly after the film’s premiere at the New York Film Festival, many were quick to dismiss the film as a bloated sidestep for Stiller, but there is much to admire here.
Once again playing the lead in his directorial effort, Stiller plays the introverted, titular Walter Mitty, who regularly escapes in his mind to a fantasy world where he embodies various dashing romantic archetypes in his bid to woo coworker, Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig). In reality, though, he is an insecure photographic film developer for Life magazine, which is about to be turned into a strictly online publication by a firm led by the weaselly Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott). The magazine’s final cover photograph, taken by the award winning photographer, Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), however, has gone mysteriously missing, and it is the search for this valued photograph that takes Walter on an exhilaratingly life-altering cross-country voyage.
Littered with preposterous CGI filled mise-en-scenes, Walter’s fantasy sequences at the outset of the film are his, and coincidentally the film’s, greatest obstacle. Audience members are sure to question and mock these ostentatious vignettes. However, once Walter, and in turn, the film abandons them, the audience’s efforts will be well-rewarded with the sweet fable that emerges. Travelling from one magnificent panoramic vista to another in search of the elusive Sean, the breathtaking landscapes and inhabitants of Iceland and Greenland are inhaled by Mitty. Just as he learns to embrace life and its intricate moments, so too will the audience champion its timeless message of bringing to fruition one’s wish-fulfilling secret life.