Back when I was in grade school, I remember picking up a copy of the book Mary Poppins. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t really see the appeal. It was okay, I guess. But I, like so many others, preferred the 1964 film adaptation. And upon seeing the trailer for this film, I was looking forward to it, but I thought it would be nothing more than a simple family film about Walt Disney trying to get the cranky old lady to grant him rights.
Well, that wasn’t what I got at all.
Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) has run out of luck and is starting to run out of money. She agrees to go to California and meet with Walt Disney, (Tom Hanks) who has been trying to make a Mary Poppins movie for twenty years. He allows her final say in everything, and she agrees, but tries to make things as difficult as possible (at one point even telling him he can’t use the color red.) But all of this is intertwined with flashbacks of herself as a young girl, and the relationship that she had with her father, (Colin Farrell) and the memories that she refuses to let go of.
I remember being so confused by Tom Hanks’ exclusion from the SAG and Globe nominations and now that I’ve seen the movie, it makes sense. Not that Hanks is bad in the role. He does a fine job. It’s just that he doesn’t shine as much as some of the other performances this year, and more importantly, this is not a movie about Disney. This is a movie about the life of Pamela Travers – A life of which Disney is only one part. And Emma Thompson is absolutely phenomenal in the role. If Sandra Bullock wasn’t so powerful, Thompson would be an easy winner.
Speaking of performances, I hope that Colin Farrell’s performance is not forgotten, because he really surprised me. In fact all of the backstories are expertly written, and the editing does a good job of mixing the two stories together. One particularly memorable scene involves the Sherman Brothers playing “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank,” and Travers has a flashback to when her father was delivering a speech about the bank he worked at. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but it truly is an astonishing sequence.
The costume design and score are subdued but do have a bit of flavor. As a film critic, you are more likely to notice the little problems here and there. The film does have moments of predictability and cliche that would cause some film critics to downgrade this to 4 or 4 1/2 stars. But for me, the virtues of this film infinitely outweigh any fault it might have, and I look forward to the day when I own a copy of this film on DVD so that I can watch it whenever I want. Not a lot of films make me feel that way. It is my belief that in almost any other year, this would be my vote for Best Picture.