What I Love and Hate about Walter Mitty

This is by no means a review. If I wanted to get into the movie reviewing game not only do I feel like I should have more than a pedestrian understand of what makes films either good or bad but I would also have to work on my timing. A good month after the release date hardly seems to be the correct moment to encourage my readers to make this movie a hit at the box office. In addition to that I have a shamefully uncritic-like habit of liking practically every movie I see. I tend to only go to movies I suspect I’ll like, and as a good judge of my own tastes, I’m usually right. So I can’t really offer anything in the way of scathing criticism here.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty washed over me with its bright uplifting flashes of color and elated me in exactly the way it was designed to do. (Even thought I am assured that only sheep like things that are likable, I more than usually like likable things (Shame, shame)). Anyway in my artless opinion, the movie was pretty, well-paced, and pleasantly acted. It also had one of those wonderfully life affirming morals that make you leave the theater fortified by a renewed desire to live life to the fullest.

It’s this moral that irritated me, or interested me, I’m not sure which. Anyway, it gave me an itch that I needed to scratch, so here goes.

True Walter Mitty is neither the first, nor will it be the last, movie to remind us that we have but only one life to live therefore; We must travel. We must have adventure. We must love and fight for that love. But they tell us we must as if the thought might have never occurred to us otherwise. It’s an old flaw in these sorts of encouraging tales, stories packed with warnings of the briefness of life and the dangers of comfort and cowardice, to assume that we who consume them are in need of this push. And once we are pushed… Well, then I suppose we’ll long board towards volcanoes and punch sharks in the face.

But we could easily see that that was message of the film from the previews, and we went to see the movie because that message appeals to us.

I guess what I’m trying say here is “Hey, Walter Mitty! You’re preaching to the choir!”  You think I wouldn’t go to Iceland if anyone gave me even half the chance? But those of us in the audience have bills and responsibilities and all the things we watch movies to forget about. I watched Walter Miitty because even if my boring terrible life will never get me further than fifty miles from Dallas, at least for two hours I can watch someone else do what I can’t. That’s what stories are for, to give us a thousand lives to live in our heads while our one true life is bent towards the terrible task of survival.

I know stories have to leave out the practical things in order to remain beautiful, that’s why no one ever washes their hands. But whenever they taunt me with this sort of moral I feel a little betrayed, I can’t help it. Don’t judge me Walter Mitty. I’m trying. I went to Canada… once.

Then again this movie wasn’t just straight shaming of the lazy couch sitters with their jobs and college debt. When I watched the movie carefully I don’t think it undervalued these real world attachments all too much.

For instance (and spoiler alert, I guess) it is revealed in the movie that Walter Mitty went to work very young to support his family after his father’s death. In fact Mitty spent somewhere around twenty years being one of us non-shark-punching-Himalayas-climbing people and what forced him out of it was a strong mix of necessity and opportunity.

I was also struck by how much he depended on others throughout his journey. Hitching rides here and there, once again finding the opportunities to get to adventure. Opportunities we in the audience may very well pass over out of fear, but much more likely, never encounter in the first place.  So I guess the real moral of this story might be, if you see an opportunity to ride with the drunk helicopter pilot to a boat in the middle of the ocean that will eventually take you to Iceland, don’t pass that up.

But that slight alteration doesn’t do much to sooth me.

Because I’m still here and that big beautiful life still alludes me.

Maybe, if I alter it a little more…

Take adventure where and when you can get it? Embraces what’s in front of you? …. Oh, I don’t know.

Of course the question of how to best to live your life is never something anyone gets an adequate answer to.

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I hope at the very least I’m not alone in this aggravation. I leave the theater after these sorts if movies newly burdened with all the things that keep me firmly in my place. Instead of feeling freed, I feel more trapped than ever and ashamed of myself for being so.

Anyway, I liked this movie. I liked, for the moment, living vicariously through its main character. Which is what stories are for after all. Maybe I’m over thinking it.


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