Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, Kathy Baker, Rachel Griffiths
Written By: Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
You won’t need a spoonful of sugar before watching this movie. It’s sweet enough as is. Oh, and by the way, Colin Farrell is in this. I don’t just mean he has a cameo, I mean he has probably equal screentime with Tom Hanks (if not more), yet somehow was completely forgotten in the marketing campaign. He’s Colin Farrell. Most moviegoers know who he is, so it seems bizarre when he shows up in full force for the duration of the film. At least Paul Giamatti doesn’t feel like a leading character, but Farrell’s character has a ton of screentime. I suppose, my A- is due in at least some part to my frustration with the marketing of the film.
The story follows PL Travers (Thompson) as she journeys to Hollywood to meet with Walt Disney (Hanks) about the prospect of turning her beloved children’s book Mary Poppins into a movie. Over the course of the film, we learn about the true origins of Mary Poppins, and of PL Travers’s childhood. Farrell plays her father. Of course, they don’t reveal that the story you’ve been watching for two hours is about PL Travers until the end, but I’d like to think you’re all smart enough to have figured that out for yourself after the first flashback scene.
Disney and Travers butt heads, but Disney is determined to make this movie. After all, he promised his daughters. A man never breaks a promise to his daughter. (IMPORTANT! SUBTEXT ALERT!). I suppose the other part of the A- is that I felt that it was a little heavy handed at times. I think they expected this film to be watched by morons, and instead it became an Oscar contender. Oscar contenders don’t spoon feed their audiences, but Banks is guilty of that a bit.
Thompson is fantastic as PL Travers. She’s truly one of the greatest working actresses, and her performance here is brilliant. Travers is uptight, pushy, and blunt, but slowly Thompson shows us the unraveling of her exterior, and eventually her soul. She is a person, even if she doesn’t want to be. I thought Hanks was good as Disney, but it is hard to show up Thompson in the film. He also has a hard time competing against Farrell’s underrated performance as a loving father struggling with alcoholism. I’m a bit saddened that his performance was overlooked by the studio, and by various award societies. Really a great performance from him.
It’s not quite as upbeat and cheery as the previews would have you believe. It has meaty moments, and moments that will likely fly over your kids heads. Even though Banks is a Disney film, some strong thematic elements would make it rather inappropriate for little ones. For adults though, it’s really a good film, that could use a little less “dumbing down” for its audience.
FINAL GRADE: A-