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Author P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) reflects on her difficult childhood while meeting with filmmaker Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) during production for the adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins.

Review by Louise Keller:
Clouds, kites, Mickey Mouse and dancing penguins all play a part in this emotional rollercoaster about redemption and letting go. Take a tissue and be prepared for a heartfelt experience; the true story of author P.L. Travers and the rocky road travelled for her famous character Mary Poppins to reach the screen is not only filled with surprises, but delivers an emotional tour de force. John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) has cleverly crafted a film whose emotional heart is protected by artifice and comedy, prompting its impact to doubly resonate. As for the winning combination of Emma Thompson as Mrs Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, nothing could be finer or more enjoyable.

By weaving together the story of the young P.L. Travers (Aussie youngster Annie Buckley) during her troubled childhood in Australia with that of the adult author (Thompson) who finds every known reason to refuse to grant the film rights of her precious fictitious character to Disney, the screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith have found the perfect structure. As the author boards a flight to Los Angeles for script approval meetings with Walt Disney's team, the little girl inside relives the highs and lows of her relationship with her alcoholic father (Colin Farrell is ideally cast). He tells his young daughter the world is an illusion and to never to stop dreaming. He also promises that he will fix everything. Big promises to make to a little girl who idolizes her father. Watch out for Rachel Griffiths as Aunt Ellie with the distinctive Mary Poppins carpet bag from which all kinds of goodies emerge.

Hanks is wonderfully affable as Walt Disney, credibly embodying the American cartoon entrepreneur with great style. When Hanks delivers the line 'It's what we storytellers do: we restore order with imagination,' it is easy to believe him. The fact that Disney's staff and team at the Happiest Place on Earth are on tenterhooks at the arrival of the brittle, perpetually frowning, hard to please Mrs Travers is played totally straight, allows the natural comedy to evolve and constantly erupt. I love the fact that her room in the Beverly Hills Hotel is filled with Disney paraphernalia and the Disney-inspired cakes, jellies and lollies that sit front and centre on the daily work-desk are a constant source of irritation of the person who they are intended to impress. Thompson plays the role perfectly, finding the right moment to let go and reveal her vulnerabilities. Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak are nicely cast as Richard and Robert Sherman, Mary Poppins' songwriters - when Mrs Travers does not want songs (or Dick Van Dyke or dancing penguins). Paul Giamatti is also effective as the limo driver who delivers some surprises of his own.

The humorous creative clashes are never-ending and the fact that Mrs Travers insists that every meeting is recorded has a pay off during the end credits. There are some priceless moments - when the songwriters reveal the songs they have written, when Walt Disney escorts Mrs Travers to Disneyland, and when it becomes clear that it is not the children that super-nanny Mary Poppins comes to save, when she appears at the Banks' house at No 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

For those who are familiar with the joys of Mary Poppins the movie, there is yet another layer to appreciate, while the emotional climax resounds to a much broader audience - reminding us there is always time to let go of the past. This is a beautiful film with emotional ballast.

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(US, UK, Australia, 2013)

CAST: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Rachel Griffiths, B.J. Novak, Kathy Baker, Dendrie Taylor, Victoria Sumner

PRODUCER: Ian Collie, Alison Owen, Philip Steuer

DIRECTOR: John Lee Hancock

SCRIPT: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith


EDITOR: Mark Livolsi

MUSIC: Thomas Newman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Corenblith

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes



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