Dreams and decadence

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Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

The stories of Walter and The Wolf

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber appeared for the first time in 1939 in The New Yorker. From there it made its way to my freshman English literature textbook and probably yours too.

I met Walter Mitty decades ago but, like that other great dreamer, Don Quixote—he’s a character of fiction you don’t forget. Walter Mitty is an everyman—he has errands to run, bills to pay, work to do. But now and then, he drifts off the mundane plane and becomes brave, dashing and adventurous.

The film got a 48-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes but despite its flaws, I thought Ben Stiller succeeded both in charming as the hapless Mitty and in directing this ultimately feel-good film. I liked the Sean Penn “cameo” as adventurer photographer Sean O’Connell and his short talk with Walter about the “ghost cat” and about what it means to capture a moment.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty reminds us life is both outside our comfort zones and in the beauty of the little things we encounter every day, and in the magic of the connections with have with people.

From the cute, the feel good and the dreamy, we jump to the downright decadent but witty, wicked and so well made, The Wolf of Wall St. Set in New York in the ‘80s. It’s based on the life of Jordan Belfort—who went from stocks to nothing to penny stocks to IPOs, filling his pockets with money, his nose with coke, and his parties with strippers. The previous collaborations of Leonardo DiCaprio and the masterful Martin Scorsese have been rewarding experiences for me at the cinema every single time: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island.

This one is no different—if anything, it’s not a question of whether it was rewarding but whether it’s the best of the five they’ve done so far (please do more, you two.) It’s a predictably outstanding performance by DiCaprio who is just getting more and more brilliant at his craft. I mentioned the word Oscar after watching it but I heard Matthew McConaughey (who appears at the beginning of the film) may actually  trump his friend Leo’s for his performance in The Dallas Buyers Club which I have yet to see.

For those of you who are intent on seeing the full, three-hour (R-18) version of The Wolf of Wall Street, do check with the cinema and with the listings.

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