Dreaming can turn out to be a dangerous trap. When life enters a kind of eternal repetition, and cycles begin and end without us being able to notice, it is time for radical changes in what we have done on our journey down here. Walter Mitty, the title character of Ben Stiller’s fantastic comedy, reaches a point where he doesn’t know what harsh reality can be and what only exists in his daydreaming head, perhaps emulating the glory days of which he never been able to enjoy.
Walter is the archetype of good madness — because, obviously, insanity also has two sides —, losing himself and finding himself again in a merry-go-round of repressed desires, his torment and his salvation. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, Stiller brings into play elements of humor that he had certainly been forced to suppress in several of his countless works, some notable, others not so much, almost a hundred and a half types as an actor, between films, series and special appearances, and here, as he did on two dozen other occasions, the protagonist-director has the chance to reveal his version of figures like this central character, particularly tasty in the idiosyncrasies that the public will understand. appropriating without asking permission.
Walter spends almost three thousand dollars to pay for his mother’s accommodation in a nursing home, a subscription to a dating website that never happens and the rent for a space to store an obscure piano, which he sends to the nursing home. Whatever he earns — and he will soon run out of all the reserves he can muster — it’s not much, but he’s not exactly a man of great luxuries.
Slightly inspired by the short story of the same name by James Thurber (1894-1961), published in 1939 and adapted for film for the first time in “The Man with 8 Lives” (1947), directed by Norman Z. McLeod (1898-1964), the Stiller’s version puts Walter in the shoes of a negative archivist at “Life”, a magazine whose inaugural edition dates back to 1883, but which could not handle the flood of technology and speed of online mobile devices and breathed its last in the year 2000.
While he is not hit by the tidal wave of layoffs, he goes to the train station on his way home, complains to the attendant about a defect in his profile on that website and saves a beautiful woman and her amputated dog from a nuclear explosion in the exposed brick building a few meters away.
This last part, of course, only happens in the maze of crazy thoughts in his brilliant mind, but the girl really exists, and is much closer than he thinks, although Steve Conrad’s script is never tired of teasing the audience about its veracity. of what goes there. Cheryl Melhoff, the young girl played with grace and boldness by Kristen Wiig, approaches him, at first very wary, and perhaps this was the apogee of the story she built on a mountain of black and white photos, suddenly stained red when someone opens the door to the development laboratory by accident.
By the way, the souvenir that Sean O’Connell, Sean Penn’s Hemingwayian photographer, leaves him could also be just an optical illusion — as well as the tribute that “Life” pays to him on the cover of the last issue, at the end.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is perhaps one of the most enigmatic films in cinema, despite the title. One feels pity, discomfort, horror at the hero’s condition, with Stiller giving an irregular but splendid performance in the end, precisely because anyone in their right mind (oops!) recognizes the Walter Mitty that lives within them.
A certain amount of special effects is annoying, even distorting the real intention of what is narrated, but the cast — including a warm participation by Shirley MacLaine as Edna, the protagonist’s senile mother — prevents the catastrophe. Walter Mitty is the portrait of a world in constant evolution, although we don’t know where or for what. This film was born a classic, and classics, we all know, never stop being current.
Film: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty