Missing the Point: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

How the Movie Missed The Point of Going After What You Really Want

Ben Stiller- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty, a guy living a life to the fullest –inside his head.

by Amanda Mamalio

Warning: May contain spoilers.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is about Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) living a mundane life and escapes it by fantasizing physics-defying epic adventures. He’s essentially a nice guy with “zoning-out” tendencies that cripples his social interactions with people. Finally, he got to live his adventures when the photo specifically requested by legendary photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) to be the cover of the final print issue of Life Magazine went missing and he has to go find it.

Adam Scott and Ben Stiller

One of Walter’s epic adventures: defeating the obnoxious higher-ups Tom Hendricks (Adam Scott)

The movie missed the whole point of seeing something missing in life and acting upon it.

Walter Mitty never went into an adventure in his own accord. He was pushed into doing so.

The movie never answered the real question. What would happen if I take that chance? What would happen if I leave my comfort zone and go after what I really wanted?

Walter is very aware that he never went anywhere or did anything interesting. But he never asked himself: Am I missing something? What can I do about it? What if I do what I can about it?

In fact, if it wasn’t for the photo, he’d probably go on with his life living each day exactly like yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Sean Penn, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Sean compelling Walter to come find him… from a photo

Yes, he responded with dedication to the company, stayed true to his work and sought after Sean. But the adventures he is subconsciously seeking out was only acted first for the magazine and then for himself.

What if Walter just woke up from his life, examined it and decided to do something about it? He has been playing it safe by being a negative assets manager for 16 years. The guy has saved enough money to travel the world as seen when he did travelled to Iceland, Greenland and Afghanistan. Why didn’t he do it in the first place if his mind is always somewhere far, far away?

Walter never questioned if he is happy with his life. He only knows his life is okay and he’s okay with that.

Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Finally travelling to distant lands, Walter looks more alive than he ever looked in the movie

A lot of people experience what Walter is going through. We chose a job that is safe and pays in a timely basis. We chose the Rat Race. Did we really go after what we wanted? A lot of people bury themselves in a pile of work because they’re afraid of the answer.

A movie can be perceived as an instrument that shows the audience what could possibly happen if a particular action is taken in the safety of imagination. The Secret Life satisfied the demand of that silent question but it never answered what would happen if we would just wake up and do it without outside forces compelling us to do so.

What would happen if we would just listen to the inner forces?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Skateboarding

Sometimes the question isn’t where are you going? The question is when?

The Secret Life is a decent watch –a combination of slice-of-life and fantasy. It follows the traditional thread of getting what he wanted subconsciously and gets the girl as a bonus prize. It keeps readers in their seats of what do the clues mean, what would happen next and most of all what is that photo that Sean O’Connell specially requested to be in the cover of Life Magazine?

The movie missed the point of getting real with oneself. The protagonist got what he wanted in life but only because life pushed him to do so. When in reality, we only need the courage to answer what that little voice is asking us: Is this how I really want to live my life?

And even more courage to act on that truth.


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