You would imagine that someone as big and powerful as Walt Disney would just have to click his fingers and get whatever film rights he wanted. However this oscar-bait movie shows that not everyone is susceptible to the charms of Disney.
Its 1961 and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been trying 20 years to secure the film rights to P.L Travers'(Emma Thompson) popular children’s story Mary Poppins. Eventually Travers agrees to go to Hollywood but only due to her financial struggles and insistence of her agent. As Walt and his team try to convince Travers to give over the rights to her story, flashbacks of the author’s childhood showed what shaped herself and her beloved novel.
Looking at this cast you can’t fault their performances. Thompson-as always-is brilliant as the author whose blunt and harsh demeanour is hiding an emotional connection to her characters that go beyond an author merely being possessive of her work. I loved her interactions with the composers and scriptwriter (wonderfully played by B.J Novak, Jason Schwartzman and Bradley Whitford), fighting them at every stage and making impossible demands that she knows are unreasonable. While her interaction with her chauffeur Ralph (Paul Giamatti) also help showed a softer side to Travers.
At times it does feel like the same old ‘stuffy, uptight Brit meets the relaxed American’s routine. However the experience of Hanks and Thompson makes sure that these characters don’t stray too far into that tired old story.
I could have done without so many flashbacks to Traver’s family. I know it’s important back story for what inspired the book, but I think they could have been cut down as I felt like they were dragging me away from the main plot line and pulling me out of the story. I’m also not too sure how accurate some of Traver’s interactions with Walt were or how she felt about the finished product.
What this film does establish though is bringing a deeper meaning to the characters in Traver’s story and makes you want to re-watch Mary Poppins with a newer understanding of what Traver’s characters meant to her.
Rating 3.5/5-perhaps too whimsical for Travers’ taste but this film has bundles of charm to get you swept along