Film No 19 (2015) : Saving Mr Banks

saving mr banks 1PL Travers, the creator of magical nanny Mary Poppins, needs to raise some cash. Her agent therefore suggests that she renew negotiations with Walt Disney, who has been trying unsuccessfully for many years to acquire the rights to turn the Mary Poppins stories into a film. Travers is not keen, as she is certain that her characters will not be interpreted faithfully. Nevertheless, she makes the journey to Los Angeles to meet Mr Disney. Once there, she agrees to be involved in writing the screenplay for the movie, but she has many stipulations about it; no red, no animation, no whimsy. Her relationship with the other writers is strained as they fail to grasp the extent to which Travers’ creations are personal to her, plus she is disdainful and dismissive of Disney’s fantasy worlds. After a troubled journey the film version of ‘Mary Poppins’ is finally released. This story is interspersed with flashbacks to Travers’ past as the daughter of an alcoholic, growing up in the Australian town of Allora. It is through these recollections that the autobiographical nature of Travers’ characters becomes apparent, explaining her deep emotional attachment to them.

I bought ‘Saving Mr Banks‘ from the bargain bucket at the supermarket. Having watched it, I wish I’d kept my £3. No doubt that sounds harsh, but this film, based loosely around a true story, did nothing for me at all.

Emma Thompson is one of my favourite actors, but I found her portrayal of PL Travers to be contrived and over-acted. Reading around the subject of the real Travers, I have discovered that the author was probably not a likeable person, but in ‘Saving Mr Banks’ she appeared as a collection of exaggerated personality traits rather than a complete person. It was also difficult to associate the young Travers, a pretty and engaging young girl who adored her father, with the socially inept, bossy and lonely person she became as an adult. Notwithstanding the traumatic effects of childhood events, an adult as weird as PL Travers must have been a pretty odd kid! Tom Hanks puts in a credible performance as Walt Disney but it was stretching the point to expect me to believe that after 20 years of discussions, the difficulties between himself and Travers were resolved after his one visit to the UK.

So, a big disappointment. Rather than a spoonful of sugar, I felt as if I needed half a bottle of whisky and two tranquilisers to help this movie go down!

Film No 38 (2014) : Love Actually

love actualyChoosing Christmas presents? I love it. Shopping? Love that even more. Parting with the cash is sometimes painful, but  I can cope. Wrapping up all the gifts? I hate it. Absolutely bloody hate it. It’s an annual battle, me against the Clinton roll wrap. So, whilst I barricaded myself in the bedroom and stuck a ‘Keep Out – Elf at Work’ sign on the door, ‘Love Actually’ was a great choice to distract me from the disobedient sticky tape.

The film interweaves twelve love stories, which take place in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas. Written and directed by comic genius Richard Curtis, the film is gentle and thought-provoking, exploring love in its many guises. Watching the film for the first time is probably the best, as the links between the characters are gradually revealed; David the Prime Minister is Karen the Mum’s brother, and Natalie, who is David’s secretary, turns out to live next door to Mia, who is Karen’s husband’s (Harry) secretary and in love with him and so on. It sounds complicated and in some ways it is, but so is modern life; we are all inter-connected by links of romantic love, parental love, friendship, familial love. The film is saved from being corny by its robust script and strong cast, as almost anyone who is everyone in British acting puts in an appearance: Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Martin Freeman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy …..and more. Even Rowan Atkinson pops up as an over-attentive shop assistant. Rodrigo Santoro, one of Brazil’s most talented and famous actors also stars, as Karl, with whom Sarah is in love. Santoro does not have a big role, but deserves a mention simply because he is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, especially when he takes his shirt off!

‘Love Actually’ has probably become part of the UK Christmas viewing landscape, together with ‘Its a Wonderful Life‘, ‘The Snowman‘ and the ‘The Sound of Music‘. The film is showing pretty much back to back on Sky over the Christmas holiday, or the DVD is only £3 on Amazon so would fit into your stocking. I suppose the fact that I could watch the film whilst multi-tasking probably says something about its watchability; it’s mental floss. But that doesn’t make me like it any less!