The Dancing Puritan

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

In 1982 I played Walter Mitty for a production at the Franklinia Playhouse in Vidalia, GA. Out of all of the roles that I played as a young actor, Mitty was my favorite. The play was based on the short story by James Thurber.

I have often thought that I would return to the stage (not that anyone is clamoring for my return) if I could once again play Walter Mitty. Since no offers are coming my way, I will likely not be making a comeback. However, like Mitty, I can dream.  

One of the reasons that I love the Walter Mitty story is because, I am a lifelong daydreamer. More than once I have been jarred back to reality by someone repeatedly calling my name (usually one of my children). 

If you have never read the Thurber story, I think you will find it well worth your time. You may even do a bit of daydreaming with Walter. If you go to the movie looking for a script that is faithful to Thurber's story, you will be disappointed. However, if you are in the mood for a fun, witty, romantic, and inspiring adaptation, then you are in store for a treat.

The movie (opened Christmas Day) stars Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty and Kristen Wiig as Cheryl Melhoff. Mitty is a 16 year employee at Life magazine and Melhoff has only worked there for a few months. As Life transitions from print to dot com a number of folks are left unemployed (including Melhoff).  

Mitty has been a great employee for Life. His job is in jeopardy because he can't find a negative, from a photo shoot, by the famous photographer Sean O'Connell (played by Sean Penn). This negative was to be the photograph used for the cover of the last print issue of Life.

The movie revolves around Mitty, his attraction to Melhoff, and his search for #25 negative. Early in the movie, Mitty gets lost in his daydreams. For good reason, his daydreams diminish in frequency as the movie goes along. Why do his daydreams decrease in number? The message is an important one. You will have to see the movie to find out.

Mitty finds later in life, what had escaped him in his youth. He finds it on several levels. 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is about life. Life just supplies the context. Just remember, it may not be too late to see a snow leopard.

Stiller and Wigg are excellent in the movie. I also enjoyed the performances by Sean Penn and Shirley MacLaine.

Go see it! 

A short piece about James Thurber: