This is a really good film, directed by John Lee Hancock (best known for the hits ‘The Blind Side’ and ‘The Rookie’ and the mega-flop ‘The Alamo’). Everyone in this film is a character, from PL Travers to Walt Disney to the Sherman Brothers.
Emma Thompson does an amazing job as the enigmatic and often offending P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books. (Although Thompson’s sort of just playing the same character she did in ‘Stranger Than Fiction’—an impolite British writer—but this time it’s historical.) Go see the movie for info on Travers’ dealings with Walt Disney, but some of her background info is interesting to read, too (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._L._Travers). She demanded that people call her Mrs. Travers, although her last name wasn’t Travers and she never married. In fact, she was known to be bisexual. She also pretended to be British, but wasn’t. The film gets a lot of historical things right about Travers, even down to showing that she had a book by Gurdjieff. (If while watching the film, you don’t believe that PL Travers was really as prickly as portrayed, stick around during the credits for some real audio.)
Tom Hanks did a really great job as Walt Disney. He had the mid-western accent down, as well as the cadence of Disney’s speech. It’s interesting that the filmmakers were never allowed to show Disney smoking because the company is protective of his image. (The company even goes so far as to digitally edit out cigarettes from Disney’s hands in photographs. No joke.) In the film, Hanks is heard coughing deeply off-camera and in one scene is shown putting out a cigarette butt, but that’s as far as they were allowed to take it. It’s strange to me that the Disney company tries to hide the fact that the real Disney smoked. I mean, he died of lung cancer because of the habit. You’d think they’d use that info to somehow make anti-smoking ads or something, not sweep it under the rug. Rant over. Back to my movie review:
Jason Schwartsman and BJ Novak were well-cast as the Sherman brothers. Jason sang, too. I didn’t know that he could. BJ Novak as the darker of the two brothers, who even walked with a cane. (The real Bob Sherman was shot during WWII.) Bradley Whiford also did well as storyman Don Degradi. He looked so familiar to me. I was sure he was the guy from ‘The West Wing’ (or at least that’s how I know him) and I was right. Paul Giamatti also did a fine job as Ralph the limo driver. Like Hanks and Thompson, I’ve never disliked Giamatti in anything.
This is the only film that I have ever liked Colin Farrell in. He played the whimsical father of PL Travers, who was also an alcoholic. In the film they sort of let you think that it was the alcoholism that killed him, but in reality he died of the flu at age 43. I looked it up. Annie Rose Buckley also did a very good job as the young PL Travers.
What more is there to say? It’s a great film. Go out and see it.