Nearly every year since I can remember, I’ve done one thing the day after Christmas: laid on the couch. It is the ONE day of the year when I feel completely guilt free for doing absolutely NOTHING. But this year, I surprised myself by going to the movies. We all went and it was fun. It felt positively joyful to go somewhere with no To Do List. We saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
I loved it. I think Ben Stiller, who starred and directed, took a real chance with the film and that alone makes me admire it. My favorite scene? The Kristen Wiig Major Tom scene. My least favorite? The scene referencing Benjamin Button, which seemed to threaten the fim’s delicate balance between silly and serious.
I’ve neither read the 1939 short story by James Thurber, nor have I seen the original 1947 movie. Not sure if that’s good or bad. But I’m going to be positive and say it’s a good thing. After all, I’m a blank slate for the filmmaker on stories like this. I have no preconceived notion of how the story should be told. Tell me a good story, the way you want to tell it, and I’ll think your story is great. Simple, right? 😉
So from a story telling perspective, I thought the mix of comedy, drama, mystery, and quest was really well done. Mitty’s search for the picture/himself was nicely supported by the name of the magazine he works for and its motto. I liked the scene with Sean Penn where his character compared the elusive Frame 25 to a Ghost Cat, which was a metaphor for the photograph’s subject.
Mitty’s transformation triggered memories of Joan Wilder’s transformation in Romancing the Stone. But, although the two movies share some elements – comedy, mystery clues, and a transformational quest plot – they’re different in tone. There’s no fantasy in Romancing the Stone and the romance is a lot lighter in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Even so… I think I liked The Secret Life of Walter Mitty better. It’s newer, of course (at least this version is), so it feels fresher, but it’s not just that. It’s the message. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty seems to speak directly to each and every person in the audience. You know you’re watching this character’s journey but you can’t help feeling that you’re watching a guidebook for your own journey toward whatever life goal you haven’t yet gone after.
And then the ending makes it personal to the character again and brings us back to the story on screen. That beautiful ending, easily appreciated by everyone, but most spectacularly so by those of us who work, write, and create in the publishing world.
Here’s to all the Ghost Cats out there – you guys rock!!
So how about you? Have you seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? What did you think? What other movies do you plan on seeing this holiday season? I finally saw Catching Fire today. Sad, moving, and emotional. The sets and costumes were terrific. Loved Johanna and Finnick. Tomorrow, we’re headed to see The Desolation of Smaug. Hope everyone is having a great weekend!