Alice in The Outback

Maybe this will interest only those who’ve been following Luther. We went to the movies last night, to see Saving Mr. Banks. You know, the one about P L Travers and Walt Disney, trying to agree on a screen version of Mary Poppins. It’s two hours long, and we anticipated more time in Hollywood than is good for the soul (or for the story line). However, much of it is in flashbacks to Travers’ childhood in Australia.

The kicker: Travers’ mother is played by Ruth Wilson. Kind of a jolt, the first time I saw her on screen. But she was, like the rest of the cast — Emma Thompson in particular — very good.


We saw this last night too! Overall, we enjoyed the film (although, not being familiar with Luther, didn’t make the same connection with Ruth Wilson).

Unfortunately, we found the “Australian” scenes were about as un-Australian as it is possible to be without the use of igloos or Morris dancers. We kept waiting for the in-movie explanation (was it a set of an on-screen movie? A mis-remembered flashback? A commentary on the disturbing tendency of Hollywood to remake all the world in its own image?*) but there was none. It was just California renamed Australia for the sake of a movie. It probably won’t have any effect on non-Australians, but as Australians we found it so distracting that it detracted from the rest of the movie. What’s especially interesting is that, while I’m usually the stickler for accuracy in movies, it bothered mrs nom far more than I. Apart from the landscape, architecture, sunlight(!), flora and fauna (although the fly was close) being all “wrong” the actual story of the Australian flashbacks was well done and moved the film well above the standard 3-act “feel-good” Disney flick.

The cast was excellent. Hanks was good as Disney, Wilson was great as Margaret Goff. Then add Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Colin Farrell and Rachel Griffiths into the mix and you have really solid performers to build on. Emma Thompson, in particular, was terrific and her portrayal of P. L .Travers (along with the way the script set-up her character to be consistent with her childhood experiences) was convincing and compassionate without getting sentimental. By the end of the film you could begin to understand why she was so cold, rude, and seemingly arrogant and to develop some empathy for her damaged world view (Disneyfication of the climactic scene between Thompson and Tom Hanks notwithstanding). Despite the name of the film, this is the story of the adult impact of childhood experiences on P. L. Travers** and it is a story well-told. There are glimpses also of the steel and determination of Walt Disney behind the smiles of the magic kingdom.

If you want high art, don’t see this (or at least go with appropriate expectations). If you want good storytelling with a feel-good ending and a believable, albeit unlikable, main character then Saving Mr Banks is definitely worth the price of admission. If you do go, make sure you stay for the credits - the treasures from the archive, especially the doodles and the audio of rehearsal, are priceless.

[size=85]*Turns out this last explanation was probably correct and probably unintentional although it was, at least in other aspects of the script, also a key part of the storyline.

**A local newspaper columnist made a convincing case for the view that the film was all about her father Travers Goff (played by Farrel) and, more generally, the struggles of men with parenthood, failed dreams and dealing with mortality. Worth a read. [/size]

I saw the film a while back (Mrs Pigfender loves Disney, and Mary Poppins in particular*), and I have to say I think the Australian sequences were supposed to be recognisable as a Hollywoodised reflection: Travers’ involuntary revisiting of the things-what-made-her triggered by and viewed through the lens of the Disney world she now finds herself in. Colin Farrell’s speech on behalf of the bank being an obvious example to illustrate this point.

[size=85]* - Who am I trying to kid? Every time the Disney Pictures vanity card featuring Cinderalla’s castle appears at the start of a movie I point at the screen and say “been there”. In fact I had lunch at the castle and had my picture taken with Cinders herself. I’m pretty sure she used the dark arts of metaphor to talk covertly about sex, but Mrs Pigfender disagrees.[/size]

Better not take Mrs Nom to see Gravity :unamused:

Guess we all feel like Mrs Nom when we see films shot in places we know but which are all “wrong”…actor A walks out of a named tube station in London and the landmark background is a shot of another part of the city from a mile or two down the road.

Thought SMB was a good film, and principally about Saving Travers Goff…or at least distilling—if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that word was chosen with care—the memory of him. I liked the scenes NOMinally set in Oz: thought they brought a depth that the film would otherwise have lacked. Doubt if many (any?) peeps in Blighty noticed/cared about the relocating of Oz to California. The old colonies are all the same to us :smiley: