First Hit: A well told story based on an interesting personality.
I’ve never read any of the Mary Poppins series of books nor have I seen the Disney film based on the books and I found that it isn’t necessary to enjoy the film. That is a very good thing.
Here we have T.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson) living in England and running out of money. She doesn’t care about money because of things her father said, but she loves her home. Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) has made a promise to his daughters that he would bring Mary to the big screen. He spent 20 years trying to convince Travers to let him do this.
With her money issues she comes to the US and stubbornly tells Walt, give me the contract, record on audio tape all the development sessions and I’ll let you know at the end of two weeks whether I'll sign the rights away or not.
The working sessions with Robert and Richard Sherman (played by B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman respectively) were testy and frustrating for all of them with Travers saying “no, no, no” more than any other set of words. Don DaGradi (played by Bradley Whitford) the producer was in the mix all the time and tried his best to soothe the oil and water mix of creative people.
Disney would continue to intercede, talk with Travers and even took her to Disneyland (the happiest place on earth). When she refuses to sign the rights over, heads back home, Walt follows here there and with a bearing of his soul about his own childhood she sees he’s out to make good and that he gets her protective angst of her stories.
The audience is treated to her past story with segues of her life growing up in Australia. If you see this film, stay through the credits long enough to hear part of one of the recording tapes from which the film is based – true to form.
Thompson plays her somewhat unsavory character excellently. Her actions come from the fear of exposing her childhood experience and family. Colin Farrell plays Travers Goff T.L.’s father and he is very good at bringing the angst of alcohol abuse and fighting Tuberculosis. Paul Giamatti as Ralph, T.L.’s driver while in Los Angeles, was priceless. He slowly massages T.L. into understanding herself in a different way. Tom Hanks was very good as Walt Disney and the signature wave Walt used is mimicked perfectly. Novak and Schwartzman were amazing and perfect as the Disney song writing team. Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith wrote an outstanding script which appears to have come, in part, from the recorded tapes. John Lee Hancock directed segments, Travers past childhood and the work with Disney, with wonderful touches of brilliance.
Overall: Almost made me want to see the film Mary Poppins.