The Secret Surprise of 'Walter Mitty'

The unexpected inspirational film of the year

Posted Jan 15, 2014

It is a rare occurrence when the metaphorical curtain falls at the end of a picture and there is that moment of silence when the audience is still absorbing what they have just witnessed. Then comes the burst of enthusiastic applause. This was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Although there were a handful of films I debated seeing in theatres this season, this film was not initially on the list. But after reading horrendous viewer reviews of another film I was intending to see, I came across the glowing acclaim of Walter Mitty. Many viewers described it as the secret hit of the season. It was the family pleaser that everyone enjoyed. I figured, why not?

It turned out to be the best film I’ve seen not only this season, but in quite some time. Perhaps it stems from low expectations. I associate Ben Stiller with most things comedic. While the film certainly had its silly moments, there was something deeper to the fabric of the film. In fact, it actually had a fabric in the first place. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was humorous, but also invoked a sense of wonder and inspiration. It was adventurous, romantic, and thought-provoking.

The plotline is essentially about an average and relatable character named Walter Mitty. He pays the bills, goes to work at a job he’s been at for decades which is now downsizing. He has a lackluster love life and an even sadder online dating profile that won’t even work. Mitty possesses a creative and active mind that constantly escapes from the mundane daily grind that is his life. Through a series of events, he sets out on the adventure of a lifetime. While much of it is fantastical, there are deeper truths to Mitty’s discovery. In many ways, it is a journey of self-discovery.

Aside from the plotline, the film features many gems. There was subtle commentary on contemporary society’s obsession with photographing and documenting every waking moment instead of experiencing it. There was an exposé of far-off lands and international travel and people. From the soundtrack to cinematography and editing, this film impressed on many levels.

A welcome shift from films that focus on sex, drugs, and alcohol, or highly dysfunctional lives and dramas, this film simply asked viewers to ponder one question. Are you living your best life? Given our many modern-day ailments from the recession to individuals who feel lonely and isolated, unmotivated and uninspired, this film speaks softly to all viewers. Without marketing itself as a “feel-good” movie, or even comedy, it speaks for itself. As far as I’m concerned, these are more of the movies that we need. They teach and they touch. And when the credits roll, you leave feeling a little bit more hopeful about the world than when you first sat down.

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