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Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks

This is going to be very disjointed because it's a kind of disjointed movie. Like, Julie and Julia disjointed in that there's kind of two movies in one going on, and only one of them is a good movie.

So movie 1 is about PL Travers and Walt Disney and the making of Mary Poppins, and this is the movie I paid to see. Emma Thompson is of course a goddess, and Tom Hanks is for once bearable because he's playing Disney, ie Smarm Incarnate. (**Note, while I love a fair number of Disney movies, their history of copyright issues and corporate historical revisionism has always set my teeth on edge.)

Most interesting to me is how these parts of the film deal with women's authorship. I mean, Travers wrote a book that Disney wants to adapt for the movie and she's withholding the rights because she doesn't want Disney to fuck it up, so the male adapters and song-writers gingerly waltz around her and have to walk the line between making the film and pleasing the author. (Which, we went to a weekday afternoon screening so the theater was almost empty, and largely unemotive, but it struck me that there were a lot of points where it seemed like the writing was set up for humor at Travers' expense. "Oh this woman, she's so British! And authorial! Just because she wrote something she thinks it demands respect, isn't that funny!" The audience I was with didn't laugh so I'm wondering if other audiences did?) And for the first 2/3 of the film it's about that balance of control. In the last third, Disney has successfully psychoanalyzed her, she signs over the rights, they make the film, and she's not invited to the premiere. Which, sidenote, the other two women in that section of the film are Disney's aides, both of whom are there to largely look bewildered by Travers not treating Disney as a benevolent god or to bring food and beverages, and one (or both? I've already forgotten now) is disapproving when he doesn't invite Travers and then smirks with pleasure when she decides to show up anyway.

And then. She dresses up, goes to the premiere, her driver reminds her that "this is all possible because of you" and--she gets no recognition, has a sort of tearful moment because she's so struck that they made a MOVIE of HER BOOK, and then Mickey Mouse escorts her to the theater, where she starts crying during the film. Erm. Um. Okay.

So let's revisit: Woman author writes amazing book, woman author fights for control of her work, cedes control, that loss of control is celebrated, and then she doesn't get any attention/recognition for it. Um. Okaaaaay? The fuuuuuuck?

Okay, movie 2. PL Travers early youth as the child of a gorgeous Colin Farrel (is it just me or does he get more attractive as he gets older? Because a decade ago he did nothing for me and now it's like, hellooooo nurse) who is an adorable father and also an alcoholic. She and her family move to the middle of nowhere Australia which starts to drive her mother crazy--the girl has to save her mom from suicide in one sequence--and then watch her dad go from being whimsical to pathetic and then finally dead.

Which, in addition to the hackneyed "adults can always be explained by childhood traumas" they also had to do the hackneyed "all great works of literature are the author dealing with their real life." Le sigh. Le sigh le sigh le sigh.

The movie went on a bit long in places, but was enjoyable because, again, Emma freaking Thompson, and the cast of minor characters. Also, during the credits there were a number of archival photos of the rl Disney and Travers, and then an archival recording of Travers and the adapters discussing/arguing the opening scenes--which itself had been adapted earlier in the film. So if you're a history geek, you'll likely enjoy that.


( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
Dec. 21st, 2013 06:02 am (UTC)
… eegh. Between this and other reviews which pointed out that the real E.L. Travers did not hate fun despite the movie's depiction, I think I'll pass. Thank you for the review!
Dec. 21st, 2013 07:20 am (UTC)
I read an interesting review/essay somewhere about how the real Travers was, in addition to being a well-known author, also openly bisexual, and at that point in her life also had an adult son, and how by erasing those aspects they are making her even more bland and ridiculous.

The BJ Novak character (one of the songwriters) also had a limp and cane (they just mention he was shot; presumably in WW2? or I guess Korea could work too). I've paid more attention to ablism in films recently and note that he comes across neither more positively or negatively than the other characters, which, I guess, yay?

But yeah, put your $10 towards Hobbit or something. I kind of want to go see The Book Thief but am also scared to because seasonal depression + Holocaust just cannot end up well...
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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