Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ten Things: Saving Mr. Banks

I've had reservations about Saving Mr. Banks, Disney's retelling of the creation of Mary Poppins, ever since I first saw the trailer.  Mary Poppins is easily one of my all-time favorite movies, as anyone who knows me can attest.  While I may consider Mary Poppins to be an absolute masterpiece of family entertainment, there was one prominent person who disagreed: Marry Poppins author P. L. Travers.  Tim over at Antagony & Ecstasy has discussed the tumultuous relationship between Travers and the screen adaptation of her work on multiple occasions with more knowledge and detail than I could hope to, but suffice to say that she despised the finished product.  With that in mind, the idea of Disney making a film about Mary Poppins' production struck me as blatant historical revisionism.  And make no mistake, Saving Mr. Banks truly is historical revisionism--but damned if it isn't some well-made historical revisionism.  The film is well-acted and even quite moving in places, so if you're interested, check it out.

Now here's Ten Things that really bugged me:

1.  Emma Thompson's P. L. Travers is a bitch.  Not that she isn't entertaining, or that the portrayal is inaccurate, but goddamn would she have been impossible to work with.

2.  Because Travers comes off as such an unlikeable jerkass it becomes very difficult to sympathize with her, no matter how hard the flashback sequences try to do so.

3.  The flashbacks tend to intrude on the 1961 scenes far too often and sometimes without any meaningful connection to what is happening in the main plot.

4.  Colin Farrell was absolutely the wrong person to play Travers' father.  It's not that he isn't a talented actor, or that he does a bad job--I just can't look at him without thinking of when he was the bad guy in that shitty Daredevil movie.  To be fair, I had the same problem with Natalie Portman and Guy Pearce (for Star Wars: Episode I and The Time Machine, respectively) for a long time too.

5.  There aren't enough scenes of Bradley Whitford singing songs from Mary Poppins.  This is because there can never be enough of that.

6.  When Walt takes Travers to Disneyland we only get to see Main St., U.S.A and Fantasyland.  I know why they did that (those are the only parts of the park that still look like they did in 1961), but I can't help but feel cheated out of seeing retro Tomorrowland.

7.  Tom Hanks' Disney comes across as too much of a walking teddy bear, rather than a real person.  I know that that might be too much to ask for in a Disney movie, but it's still disappointing.

8.  The scenes with Walt and Travers sparring are the best in the movie, but there simply aren't enough of them.

9.  The movie really wants us to side with Travers when Disney tries to snub her for the Mary Poppins premier, but I don't think the film was watching the same movie I was.  I was totally with Walt on that one.

10.  Knowing how things played out in reality prevented me from buying the implication from the ending.  That said, I'd be lying if I said I didn't get choked up.  Thompson really sells it, and I get emotional at the end of Mary Poppins too.

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