Seeing the World Through Daydreams (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Movie Review)

It’s a bit of a chilly secret life.

If you know me, then you know that I daydream. I mostly daydream when I’m at work or when I don’t have anything particular to do or anything that I’m interested in doing. Those are all different states of being but they tend to revolve around similar things: Fantasies. Almost inevitably my daydream will go from mundane to me imagining myself with someone who is hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away, likely doing romantic things, likely cuddling.

I’m a very romantic person and I’m also an anarchist, so I figure I’ve got a lot of room to daydream in this world. Whether it’s thinking about the current state of society or someone I love, I have plenty to think about. Sometimes my daydreaming just lasts 10 seconds but when I meditate it’s almost the whole time. While meditating I’ll imagine fantastical situations that make me happy to think about. Again, often loved ones or people who I have feelings for.

I think part of this is that it’s just nice to get away from the world. With so much death, destruction, Trump in power (but now I’m being redundant) and disease that could be prevented, it’s hard to not want to get away. But daydreaming isn’t just an escape, it’s also a way of my brain telling me that I still have goals and desires I’m not meeting. And maybe I’ll never meet them, but that’s okay too, because not everything is obtainable in our lives.

But daydreaming reminds us that these are still ideas in our heads, ones that we’d rather be engaging with than the things we’re doing right now. So even if you can’t reach these fantastical goals, you can at least move in their general direction. And of course this daydreaming applies at many of our jobs when we’d probably rather be almost anywhere else than at our cubicle, desk or whatever you’re at.It doesn’t take an asshole boss for that to happen, but it helps.

Speaking of daydreams and asshole bosses, let’s talk about the 2013 movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Walter Mitty (played by Ben Stiller) is a (wait for it) daydreamer whose company gets acquired by a larger company and taken over by people who fire most of the employees. It’s a pretty easy set up (c.f. Office Space) but the movie takes great opportunities with it to help show us, the viewers, the world far away from our cubicles.

Mitty, through a series of somewhat unlikely events, decides to travel and experience countries outside the US such as Greenland and Iceland, as well as the Himalayas. Mitty’s penchant for daydreaming in the first half of the film is often charming and sometimes funny, though it gets rather old and predictable quickly.

The movie actually made me reflect on whether daydreams are inherently good or not. I suppose there’s no real inherent morality to them per se’, but is it a good thing that I daydream so much? Or that Mitty does? Would we all be better off if we paid more attention to the world around us, instead of a fantasy world inside our heads?

Well, put like this, of course.

In some sense daydreaming takes us away from engagement with the world around us and substitutes it for a world we’d like to see. It gives us the conclusion we want without any of the effort we’d have to put in. And one could certainly argue that this robs us of the chance to learn for ourselves about the values we claim to hold.

On the other hand, I think occasional daydreaming is always a good thing. Thinking about what you’d rather be doing is, again, a good way to remind yourself that things could always be better. It reminds us that our values could be realized in much more pleasurable ways than what we are doing currently. And even if it’s just a marginal degree, that’s important.

Work is one of the biggest places where we all daydream, but it’s hardly the place we’d like to be. It’s similar with children in schools or heck, anyone in a situation they have little to no choice in. In the absence of any stimulating external stimuli the brain is more likely to create it from the inside.

I like how the movie, instead of treating Mitty like some sort of straightforward loser, say he’s just a dreamer and someone who has been in the same job for 16 years. He knows he wants better but is inept at doing it. On the other hand, he’s super good with photographs, can ride a skateboard decently (better than I can, that’s for sure!) and even at the beginning of the movie with his sister, we can see he’ll push for what he needs, even if others disagree.

There’s a romance in this movie but, incredibly, it’s not forced. Most of the interactions make sense and even the way it comes together didn’t seem farfetched to me. The Asshole Boss was believable enough, the soundtrack was pretty fun and so was a lot of the scenery. The characters are just okay. Mitty is the only one worth paying attention to, though there are some good character interactions between him and others, especially Todd  from Eharmony (Patton Oswalt).

That’s one thing I’ll criticize about the film: The advertisement placements are a bit obvious and obnoxious. It seems to cheapen the movie and it’s deep and meaningful message when they keep interrupting the movie for a message from Papa John’s or Cinnabon. Regardless, it doesn’t come up too much and so doesn’t take too much away from the film.

My roommate called this movie “cute” and that’s what I’d probably say. Is it worth watching? Yeah, Id say that you should watch this movie at least once if you’re interested. It’s whimsical but not in a way that’ll beat down on the viewer and it’s got some accessible work-critical themes that I think are appreciable.

Did it deserve to be so high on the list of movie that’ll make you wanna quit your job?

I don’t know, I mean, I want to go to Scotland some day and enjoy myself there. But that drive has never convinced me to quite my job or even really think about. I tend to think about quitting my job anyways cause it kind of sucks. So I guess this top ten list has made me learn that I really don’t need any of these movies to want to quit my job.

I’d quit it if I could, trust me.


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