We tend to underestimate people.
It did happen to me several times. A friend or acquaintance would introduce someone who seemed more like an ordinary girl or guy with a somewhat monotonous, homey lifestyle but then suddenly turns out to have even way cooler, more extraordinary life experiences: a computer technician/weekend backpacker, a staff at some BPO human resource office/prolific writer and avid jogging junkie, an accountant who has climbed more mountains in the Philippines than I am, a teacher at a Catholic school with an admirable track record of serving kids with special needs.
This is the premise I saw in Ben Stiller’s latest comedy “The Secret of Life of Walter Mitty”. Stiller produces, directs, and stars in the film (based on James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name) as Walter Mitty, an unassuming employee at the negative assets department of Life magazine. He has a habit of zoning out and daydreaming of adventures he never had the chance to take, which usually involves his secret office crush, Cheryl Melhoff (played by the lovely, quirky Kristin Wiig).
Soon, news breaks out that Life is transitioning from print to online and will be retrenching some employees as part of corporate restructuring led by the unsavory transition manager Ted Hendricks (played by Parks and Recreation’s Adam Scott). Walter receives a wallet as a gift from renowned photographer and regular contributor Sean O’Connell (played by Sean Penn) containing a series of negatives for his masterpiece “The Quintessence of Life” which the he suggested as the feature for Life’s last print issue. When Walter examines the negative roll, he realizes that the last negative is missing.
With pressure mounting from Hendricks and advice from Cheryl, Walter is convinced he must find Sean using the other negatives as clues. This leads him to embark on a sudden adventure that would take him to a helicopter ride in Greenland, an up close view of the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, and a trek on the Himalayas mountains in ungoverned Afghanistan where he finally finds Sean. Walter’s epic adventures, combined with an enthusiastic soundtrack from Theodore Shapiro and Jose Gonzales, could pass for an extended cut for a GoPro commercial. The movie’s hilarious plot twists, coupled with compelling screen performances from Stiller, Penn, and Scott, saves it from the predictable unassuming-guy-gets-the-cool-quirky-girl melodrama and noticeable array of product placements.
One would initially think that this movie is about a guy, who, out of boredom for the monotony of his reality, finds escape through his overactive imagination. The secret here isn't Walter’s fantasies but his realities. He unlocks opportunities for experiences even greater than he imagined by conquering his fears and circumstances. It is a reminder for all us that we can become more than what we imagine if we turn our visions into reality. That each of us can become our own Walters.
Hence, whether you’re working the dishes at your local fast food joint or receiving long distance calls from insurance subscribers at midnight, these are no alibis for not living the life you imagined. Because I do know a number of real life Walter Mittys who despite their circumstances have been to places and experiences you can only dream about.
When you've reached this point in this review, grab a pen and a Post It, look at your desk calendar, and start listing and scheduling adventures you've only fantasized having, because you, my friend, are going places! TSS
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” - Walter Mitty