Last Saturday night, I saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a film based on the short story by James Thurber.
The movie was nothing like Thurber's short fiction I remember reading many years ago. I wondered if my recall powers might be hazy, so the following morning I searched my bookcase for The Thurber Carnival, First Modern Library Edition 1957, and reread the story. As it turns out, “very loosely based” might be a better description.
Thurber writes an amusing tale, first published in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939, featuring a somewhat befuddled and henpecked husband who daydreams about heroic adventures while his wife complains about his driving and lectures him about the need to wear overshoes. If you don't remember the story, you might remember the churning machines of his fantasies: “ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa.”
The 2013 Ben Stiller version is a romantic comedy that made me laugh loud and often. Several running gags paid off in hilarious and satisfying ways. The cinematography was exquisite and the credits, both before and after the film, were fresh and creative. Kristen Wiig is always wonderfully watchable. Sean Penn’s cameo as the rugged and elusive photographer is perfect. Ben Stiller's priceless scene in the bar in Iceland is a nod to Mitty’s fantasies in the Thurber story.
In Stiller's film, Walter Mitty is a negative asset manager for Life Magazine. i.e., the caretaker of photo negatives from iconic photographs that have graced the covers of the magazine, a job he has held for sixteen years. He isn’t exactly living a life of quiet desperation. He’s a daydreamer but he's good at his job. He has close relationships with his mother, sister and at least one coworker. The inciting incident forces Walter to choose between fantasy and reality.
Because we're nearing the eve of a new year, often a time of reflection, I began to consider Walter’s dilemma and wondered: Am I harboring dreams I’ve never acted on, like climbing Mt. Everest, sailing to Australia on a tramp steamer. joining the circus or dancing the samba dressed as an archangel in the Carnaval parade in Rio de Janeiro?
Okay, so cross that one off the list. I’ve had many interesting experiences in my life but this film had me revisiting my bucket list. What about you? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet? Is 2014 the year?
HAPPY MONDAY AND A HEALTHY, HAPPY 2014!