Ben Stiller is known to the general public, primarily as a comedian and as a director of comedy films. Such projects in his track record are only occasionally diluted with something a little more serious, and this is more about mixing genres than about completely abandoning comedy (for example, “Greenberg” or “Brad’s Status”). Actually, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was no exception: it belongs to the genres of tragicomedy and adventure.
This is not a film that is intended to shock, scare, bring to tears. This is a picture with a fairly measured, logically built narration, which unobtrusively reveals the main idea and does it beautifully in its own way. Actually, the main idea also does not shine with originality and novelty: live here and now, seize the moment, be open to new experience, do not close yourself off from the world and from other people.
And yet this thought is incredibly topical, despite the huge number of films, books, poems, paintings that have already been dedicated to it. It is grimy, perhaps even more trenchant than stereotypical love stories, but, unlike the latter, it is always relevant to the public. Who among us can say with confidence that he is absolutely satisfied with his life? That he doesn’t feel like he’s missing something? Not living “to the fullest”? That he surely sees the whole picture as a whole, using it to the maximum? Probably no one.
A new reading of an old story
It is worth noting that a film based on a similar scenario has already been filmed. This happened in 1947, and the picture was called “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” The main role in it was played by Danny Kay – a very popular American comedian of the twentieth century. That film was an absolute, one hundred percent comedy, built on Danny’s humorous talent. In fact, as Ben Stiller himself admitted, that film was Kay’s benefit performance.
In his creation, the actor and director in one person wanted to create something different. He dismissed the thought of pure comedy almost immediately, deciding to turn the ridiculous script into something not devoid of humor, but still socially poignant. According to Stiller, he was very inspired by the original script of the 1947 film, and he found it amusing to move Walter Mitty into modern conditions, with all their technological complexities and nuances. Ben wanted to portray a guy whose computer screen obscures the endless screen of events around the world, and his path to expanding his own worldview. So the comedy grew into something that claims to be a simple, but still, to some extent, serious movie.
A plot that will not remain misunderstood
So, as already noted, the main feature of this film is a relatively simple and reasonable idea underlying it, and the consistency of its presentation. In fact, the script is linear and extremely laconic:
- The main character lives modestly and boringly, although he obviously wants more. We can learn about the flights of his fantasies and the extent of his ambitions from his imaginary adventures, in which he systematically turns out to be a brave hero. Actually, such a violent fantasy is one of the key indicators that a person wants something more from his life.
- The protagonist is faced with problems that force him to leave his comfort zone. He does this, on the one hand, reluctantly, on the other, with a certain readiness. As if it allows the surrounding world to awaken itself from a long sleep.
- Immersed in the new and unknown, the main character begins to realize that the limits of his capabilities are practically limitless, not only in the imagination, but also in the real world. He is drawn into adventures, and he demonstrates such behavior, which previously seemed impossible for him.
- The main character returns home refreshed and recovered. His problems do not disappear, his life does not become similar to the fate of heroes from the pages of comics, but he begins to see opportunities around him, not dead ends. He rises above the ordinary and begins to live for real.
If you were not seriously distracted while watching the movie, then you probably followed and felt this ingenuous sequence. And if you sat down to watch a picture with a desire to get something good from it, and not with the intention of booing Ben Stiller’s next directorial and acting work, then you, for sure, were charged with a positive attitude from the protagonist of The Incredible Life of Walter Mitty.
In any business, the best option is always the golden mean, and any deviations from it require a lot of effort to get a good end result. So it is in the art of cinema. Nobody belittles the importance and significance of really talentedly filmed intricate pictures with many storylines, flashbacks, hints and riddles, changing faces on whose behalf the story is being told, and the like. But still complex films, shot mediocre – the worst horror of any moviegoer.
Much nicer to the eye is a simple but elegantly detailed scenario that does not leave the viewer in confusion and bewilderment. And we have to admit that such a movie also needs to be able to shoot, without falling into endless primitivism and without giving up the laconic desire to “cram” as many “hype” topics into the film as possible. So here Ben Stiller can be told a well-deserved “bravo”.
Much of the film was filmed in Iceland, a country renowned for its incredible landscapes, clean air and incomparable natural beauty. It was Icelandic natural “scenery” that shaped the film’s basic aesthetics. If you watch The Incredible Life of Walter Mitty and wait a few months, and then try to remember what you saw, then you will probably be the first to remember the beauty of Iceland.
By the way, it is not only pleasant to watch them on the other side of the screen: the film crew was also pleased with the work in such conditions. According to Ben Stiller, in this country every morning he woke up active, cheerful, full of energy, and went to the site with a great desire to work. Perhaps in part, shooting against the backdrop of picturesque mountains and active volcanoes gave him the right mood as an actor, allowing him to play Mitty most believably. Moreover, Ben had never been to Iceland before, and he was fascinated by this place just like his character.
Nice supporting characters
The main conflict in this film takes place in the mind of Walter Mitty – this is the conflict in which he enters with himself. Therefore, the filmmakers did not consider it necessary to add serious conflicts with other characters to the plot. In fact, even Ted Hendrix, who seems to offend Walter and tries to challenge his professionalism, is not an antagonist as such. And Cheryl, Sean O’Connell and others – and even more so. They just help to reveal the main plot, and nothing more.
In general, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty can be called that dose of positive and motivation, which is sometimes lacking for each of us, regardless of the stage of life. Return to this movie when you’re sad, bored, or lazy – and the energy will not keep you waiting.