It is very rare that comedy contains any depth of theme that conveys a didactic message to the audience. Most commonly, the laughter caused by a comedy film distracts the viewers from any hidden message, and overshadows the theme the producer intended. However, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) brilliantly delineates a comical adventure of an ordinary person to convey his philosophy of life, beyond the sharp-ended definition of a common lexicon.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a comedy-adventure film written and produced by Steve Conrad. This movie is the second adaptation of a short-story that was first released in 1939 with the same title. The movie portrays the comedic adventure of Walter Mitty, a negative assets manager at Life magazine, and has a crush on his co-worker, Cheryl Melhoff. Mitty works with a highly recognized photographer Sean O’Connell.
▲ Poster of the Movie. Provided by deviantart.net
In the opening stage of the movie, O’Connell sends a negative photo and a wallet to Mitty and tells him that the photo he sent should be used as the cover image of the final magazine before it converts to online status. O’Connell claims that it captures the quintessence of Life. The rising action begins as soon as Mitty realizes that the photo is missing, and Mitty embarks on an adventure to find O’Connell.
Mitty, who first flies to Greenland to find O’Connell, encounters several adversities during his adventure and meets several people who claim to have seen O’Connell before. His search for O’Connell, however, does not end in Greenland, forcing him to travel more than once, before he finally finds O’Connell in the Himalayas. The photo is eventually found, yet it is too late by the time he has it sent to the magazine press. He realizes that a new life has been waiting for him after the unexpected adventure.
What makes the movie so different from other movies is that it utilizes comedy to convey the producer’s own interpretation of life. Although explaining one’s philosophical definition of life may be very tedious, requiring a lot of time and abstract explanation, the movie does phenomenally well in explaining this very difficult term using comedic sources. This retains the attention of the audience and allows them to grasp the intended theme more easily.
Another aspect of the movie which the audience needs to pay close attention to is the various settings. As a part of the plot, Mitty travels to many different places in order to meet O’Connell. The different places Mitty visits display a variety of atmospheres that helps to evince the producer’s main theme. The movie encourages the audience to undergo a variety of experiences and travel to places where few have gone. The drastically changing setting from time to time underlines the variety of experiences one has to go through in order to define life the way the producer would like to define it.
▲ Summarizing quote of the movie. Provided by s-mediacache-ak0.pinimg.com
Audiences should also pay close attention to whenever Mitty starts daydreaming. Mitty is prone to daydreaming whenever he has the chance, and the protagonist frequently dreams of escaping the tedious routine to discover the new, and often drifts in and out of reality thinking about his crush, Cheryl. Not only does this emphasize the message which the movie tries to convey to the audience, but it also acts as a crucial element in driving the plot forward by providing inklings to how Mitty will behave whenever he daydreams.
The movie also blends well with the background music, especially with “Space Oddity.” This song by David Bowie delineates the adventure of an astronaut who travels to where few have gone before. In many ways, the song relates to the main theme of the movie that encourages the audience to come out of their comfort zones to discover places where they, and also others, have not discovered before. The critics have also agreed that the scene that accompanies “Space Oddity” has a lot of significance that reveals the overall theme of the movie.
While the audience were mostly satisfied with the movie overall, the critics were generally unhappy with the film, stating that the film “fails to back up its grand designs with enough substance to anchor the spectacle.” The review aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, also gave a relatively low total review score of 50 percent, based on 180 compiled reviews. The movie, however, did also have fans, with some critics giving positive reviews, commenting that “The story Stiller tells manages to float in a most peculiar, satisfying way.”
Regardless of what the critics say about the movie, the film provides the audience with abstract understanding of a term that may be difficult to define in one’s own words, while successfully incorporating comedy that will retain the audience’s interest and attention. While this movie may not be the best choice for those who prefer intense visual effects or vivid movements, it definitely is a movie worthy of watching for whoever wishes to entertain themselves with a pinch of comedy and a thought-provoking message.