The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Throwback 2013)

With everyone feeling down with the grim reality of Covid-19 looming I decided to do a feel-good throwback on one of my favorite movies entitled The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), an adaptation of James Thurber’s classic short story. I love this movie! Probably because at the core I am a nomad, living for the unknown, never afraid to take a calculate risk. Given we are all feeling endlessly restless from many weeks in lock down what could be better than to virtually escape into foreign lands and roads untraveled. As LIFE’s Motto states, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” And I’m lovin it!

This film opens with daydreamer Walter Mitty (fabulously played by Ben Stiller), a very bland white-collared negative assets manager/picture researcher at LIFE Magazine in New York City living an uneventful vanilla lifestyle trying to take a gamble on a dating website. When his online attempt fails due to his unfinished eHarmony been-there-done-that profile the movie tumbles into a fabulous daydreaming-turned-reality adventure of self-realization. The film highlights that living in your own head is not living at all. Stepping or jumping out of the box is required to really experience the present and live a big life. Pushing the limits of the human spirit is what it is all about. Not letting everyday problems and doldrums rule the day. This movie entertainingly rolls out how taking chances allows the authentic self to be revealed. In short, live in the moment and just enjoy every minute. This is an important message no doubt, yet not the primary take-away of this film. Instead the overriding life lesson this flick imparts is more about understanding, recognizing, cherishing, and acknowledging all the amazing people hidden behind the scenes of our being that propel us forward and make us shine so bright. Unseen vs. Unnoticed – Sean Penn who plays sought after (successful, brave, tough, fearless, rugged, handsome) illusive LIFE photographer Sean O’Connel said it best ‘beautiful things don’t ask for attention’ but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it. Hats off to all the Ghost Cats in our lives.

Directed by Ben Stiller, this movie incorporates a star-studded cast starting with Kristen Wiig as Mitty’s colleague/love interest Cheryl Melhoff, Shirley MacLaine as his mother Edna, Kathryn Hahn as sister Odessa and Adam Scott as boss Ted Hendricks to name a few. All of which did a great job in their roles though I thought Ben Stiller outshone them all. He did such an excellent job portraying Walter Mitty as someone who wants more out of life but does not come across as depressed or completely unhappy. Instead he is just a regular guy that zones in and out of reality indulging in fantastical delusions of grandeur to cope with his boring life. That is until he can’t locate the most valuable film-roll negative slated to be LIFE Magazine’s last-ever print issue Cover, which in turn reluctantly propels him on a quest to find it. Doing so unexpectedly helps Mitty expand as a person and unwittingly increases his confidence and self-belief. Basically, he finds identity through his adventures. In the process Mitty evolves into his best self by learning he is valued by those he values. Something I think we all strive for. After all, ‘Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.’― Voltaire. This film also humors viewers with some nice illustrations of the imagination before snapping us back to the now. I liked the inventive fantasist components almost as much as the factual aspects of Mitty’s life. Although this story could be contrived as too airy and perfect, I happen to like a good RomCom once in a while. On that note, I loved how at the end of Mitty’s journey the real thing turns out to be so much better than anything he could have made-up. I know that sounds sappy but what’s wrong with a little fantasy every now and then. And of course, I loved how Mitty’s mum saved the day too! Mums are the best after all. ha ha

PS. Similar to the Walter Mitty character, for me living my best life means travelling as much as possible. I worship freedom and being on the go wandering the world. Lucky for me a lot of my travel is humanitarian based or work related, which adds another meaningful layer to my expeditions. That said, I also really enjoy my structured everyday life, but some of my best moments are when I’m in some incredible foreign land seeing and doing spectacular things while not even knowing or caring what day of the week it is. This is when I feel I am truly awake in my life and I love that feeling. On that point, it is worth noting that the cinematography in this film was delightful in its display of stunning landscapes, some of which I have visited. This movie also gave Iceland its first leading role in Hollywood, which definitely made many explorers like me want to visit this enchanted place even more. For the record seeing Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull was phenomenal and witnessing its famous Strokkur Geyser erupt in front of my eyes was truly life altering. In a flash I genuinely comprehended just how alive our planet really is. Amazing. Cheers to all the roving gypsies like me (in practice and at heart). It won’t be long before Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, and we are back on the road again. Bless.

Literally standing/walking on the rift path between two continents this pic was taken in the World Heritage Unesco site of Iceland’s Þingvellir region located 49km east of capital city Reykjavik in the active volcano rift valley created by the drifting apart of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that are still drifting in opposite directions at the rate of 2cm annually. Other pic on a ship much like the movie’s Erkigsnek vessel just off the coast of Iceland and one at Strokkur Geyser as it erupted. Other pics taken while trekking the Himalayas while on a humanitarian trip – receiving official Mount Everest Certificate for traveling to (not climbing) the majestic Sagarmatha ‘Goddess of the Sky’ a.k.a. Peak 15! Such great adventurous memories. Can’t wait until we can all travel the world again! Bless this beautiful planet and all its inhabitants. BTW happy belated Earth Day – we love you.

6 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Throwback 2013)

  1. I enjoyed this film very much, but I’ve not seen it since the cinema release. I agree with what you’ve said, but I also really liked the reverence this film has for analog photography. As I love shooting on film, this aspect of this film really appealed to me. Not to mention the beautiful looking cinematography was shot on film.

    There is a quality & feeling that film gets that you can’t get on digital. I don’t think the scene where Sean Penn tells him where the negative was would have had the same emotional impact if it was just a memory card instead.

    I’m not trying to make this a film vs digital debate, or do some digital bashing, but the respect for analog photography in this film gave it a more personal touch for me.

    I am also looking forward to being able to travel again. I was planning a 3 week trip to London this year but this current situation obviously got in the way. I’ve been to London many times so while its not “super important” that I go again, its just that I love shooting on different types of films & experimenting with things, & with my strong interest in the Jack the Ripper case, I’ve tended to stay in the area & photograph key sites several times that my time in Whitechapel takes up a lot of my time.

    My last three trips have included time in Italy as well, which has meant less time in London, so I decided this year to do a full 3 weeks or so to catch up on sites I either missed out on, or places I need to see. Last year, I only got to see one site on my list of places I wanted to go (not including places on my private Ripper tours), so this made me want to do a longer London only trip.

    Oh, also, about Iceland, Alan Fletcher from Neighbours is a keen photographer & he did his own travel photography series called Photo Number 6, & the first episode was on Iceland, & it was really fascinating & unique. Just thought I’d mention that.

    Hope you’re well. Thanks for sharing this post on Walter Mitty.

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  2. Yes the movie includes a very nostalgic component with the old school film roll negatives angle. The entire story revolves around just how precious such old camera pics really are. Once lost they are lost for good. That’s one good thing the new digital era can help us avoid – no more losing photos – or so we think! ha ha

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  3. Martha I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a hold of you for years. My name is Ann Marie And I am a 62-year-old married woman living in Indiana for the past 20 years. But I was born and grew up in Massachusetts. I met Sherry Martel the wrestler in 1988. From then until 1999 I spent many days driving her and other wrestlers all over The East Coast. I just wanted to let you know back then I probably was spending more time with your husband and his fellow wrestlers then they did with their families. I had a very understanding husband. I just want you to know that I loved Owen like a brother. My brother died about six months before him and I was absolutely devastated by then I had moved to Indiana and didn’t know anyone and I look forward to him coming to wrestle in Chicago. I would pick him up and bring him to the show and After the show he would stop somewhere to get something to eat bring it up to his room. He was always in a hurry to get back to his room so he could call you. I never saw anybody who love somebody so much in my life and I can tell you that he never even looked at another woman and I probably couldn’t count more than two or three people in that industry that you could say that about! He really help me through the devastation of losing my brother in a motorcycle accident. And I knew he felt lost before because I remember being with Davey and Brett when they found out about their nephew after they had just landed. I tried so hard to get a hold of you after Vince murdered him because I had Drove him the night before The kemper show he was in Chicago the night before all he talked about was that damn stunt and I told him what are you worried about they’re going to have a security line with it! He said no he was real worried about it. I can’t stand Vince McMahon.Owen’s accident wasn’t really an accident in my opinion just like somebody driving drunk out of their mind and killing somebody isn’t really an accident either and I don’t blame you for not wanting Vince to make another penny off of your beloved Owen. F$&K the hall of fame. I just want you to know that the last night of his life he spent talking about you Athena Oje and the fact that you were going to move into your beautiful new home that he works so hard to give you. One of the last things he said to me is not to worry about losing my best friend/brother because HE would be my new brother! That was Owen in a nutshell. Always so kind and considerate and full of jokes. I can’t tell you how many times I was driving him down the highway and he would slip my car into neutral just to freak me out! He was so much fun to be around and had morals and standards and that’s not something you see much in the wrestling industry just wanted to let you know this. I’d like to talk more about what he said that night so if you want to call me my number is 219-616-1819. I’m sure you know this already but I just wanted you to know that your husband loved you more than words could say and he love being a father to your two wonderful children and he would be so proud of the life that you lead and the great job you did giving your children a good life with the same morals and standards as their parents! Thank you for making him such a happy man. I hope this gets to you. It’s on my bucket list to talk to you as I am a two-time cancer survivor and the chemo really did a job on my body so I’m mostly homebound even without coronavirus! LOL but I will love and miss Owen all in the rest of my life just like my brother Ronnie! Take care and and pray for you and your family to have a healthy happy life!

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    1. Hi Ann Marie: I just saw your comment. How lovely of you to say all of these wonderful things and share such amazing memories. Sorry to hear that you are having some health issues but do stay well and stay home. All the best and most definitely when my schedule lightens up I will try to catch up with a call. On that point, please edit out your phone number so you do not receive unwanted calls. Bless.

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  4. Just watched it and wow is Iceland beautiful. I am a big fan of Ben Stiller and his awkward quirks and dialogue he portrays in some his movies and this did not disappoint. At first when he goes on his trip to Greenland, it took me a while to realize it was actually real haha.

    It’s a great story as he slowly stops his “zoning out” which I assume is something he started to cope with the death of his father. I really liked the scene when they were on the mountain and Walter says “aren’t you going to take the photo” and Sean Penn says “sometimes I don’t.” Just thought it was a nice scene.

    Overall fun movie and loved seeing Patton Oswalt as Todd.

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  5. Agreed. It’s good to just live in the moment sometimes and enjoy the ghost cats as beautiful things that do not ask for attention. Thank you Christopher for your thoughtful comments and yes Iceland is so beautiful – worth a visit for sure.

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