Irksome Writer Loses, Goes Home in Defeat

Prior to last night’s Saving Mr. Banks screening at Disney studios, Tom Hanks told Variety‘s Maane Khatchatourian that original “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (who is portrayed a bit cantankerously by Emma Thompson) would not have been a Banks fan. “She would absolutely hate [our film],” Hanks said on the red carpet. “She would say, ‘Why don’t you make a movie about the poetry that I wrote?’ She would hate this movie. But that’s what’s great about it. But she’d also be here seeing it.” This reminds me of Mark Harris‘s recent tweet that called Banks “a nice Disney-corporate-retreat film about how studios always know best and writers are crazy and only Americans understand emotions.”

  • Mechanical Shark

    Travers would probably hate it for being a lousy bit of corporate self-fellating.

  • Steven Gaydos

    This piece on Banks by Rosanne Cash goes online tomorrow on Variety.com but in light of this nonsense spew, why wait?

    “In the screenplay for “Saving Mr. Banks,” Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith very casually — and elegantly — let the audience in on the big secret of artists and writers, in the middle of a key conversation between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers. Disney, in trying to convince Travers to trust him with “Mary Poppins” says: “We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again.” That took my breath away.

    For those of us whose childhoods have a crack down the center, and who have made our life’s work in both the playgrounds and the dark caverns of the imagination, those two sentences are more than a wise reflection on creativity, they are a mission statement.

    That scene, although a linchpin, is not just a great moment to be lifted out and reflected upon, but part of a graceful and muscular screenplay. It is so finely layered and seductive that I felt I was on the inside looking out of Travers, not an observer of her story.

    At first, her irascibility seemed too relentless and too studied, almost a caricature, but as her story was revealed in flashback, I began to see her inflexibility and chronic irritation as valiant. She became easy to admire. It’s the natural inclination of those who are deeply damaged in childhood, particularly women, to become people-pleasers; to try to heal the wound by manipulating others into fixing it for them. Travers went the other way, but her abrasiveness was not just protective, it was heroic: utterly in the service of her work. Her heroic qualities extended much deeper than I first realized, however.

    She has dark secrets, and they lie on her like a mist. Everything she says is behind an intricately woven veil of unspoken and tormented memories and fathomless — and fatherless — longing. Walt Disney navigates the mist with increasing acuity, but he is also in thrall — not just to his own imaginative visions, but to the elaborate internal reconciliations of his own childhood. The places their secrets and pain intersect, and eventually dovetail, are a source of enormous creative dynamism.

    A pivotal exchange between Travers and Disney early in the creation of the film version of Mary Poppins begins to reveal her private raison d’etre:

    Travers: I won’t have her turned into one of your silly cartoons.

    Disney: Says the woman who sent a flying nanny with a talking umbrella to save the children!

    Travers: You think Mary Poppins has come to save the children?

    As Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Thankfully, there are some who use the irreconcilable wounds of the not-dead past to make great art, to restore order for themselves — and the rest of us — with their memories and imagination. The women who don’t people-please — P.L. Travers, who is cranky, complex, yearning and alone — and Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, who masterfully recount and reconstruct a watershed moment in her life, and the life of Walt Disney, do what all great artists do: they instill us with hope. Again and again.”

    Rosanne Cash is an author, songwriter and Grammy-winning recording artist with 11 No. 1 country hit singles and two gold records.Her new album is “The River and the Thread.” She is the daughter of Johnny Cash.

    • berg

      “Seven Year Ache” was always one of my faves

  • Gabe_Toro

    There’s a lot I hated about this movie, but it’s particularly hard to get past the 20-30% of it regarding the flashbacks with Colin Farrell as yet another one of those TERRIBLE movie fathers that’s like, “Hey, kids, what are we playing today?? Let’s go on an ADVENTUUUURE! I’m a playful animal, ride me to the dinner table, mom is angry!!!” I only assumed he was meant to die, but after his first scene, I was actively rooting for it.

    • Brad

      “I hated this movie because, yeah, umm I wanted the father to DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”

      Riveting as always, Gabe Toro. You cut right to the heart … of nothing.

      • Gabe_Toro

        It’s 3 fucking AM, if I were to make a list of things I disliked about this movie we’d be here forever. That’s a good shitty putdown you came up with there, though. Hope it was worth it, anonymous stranger.

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3769949/ thatpj

    Lol the pre-emptive hate on Banks is funny. It’s like the 800 pound gorilla in the Oscar race that no one wants to wake up.

  • Perfect Tommy

    Haven’t seen “Banks” yet, but I do know that “Mary Poppins” the movie is better than “Mary Poppins” the book.

  • Brian Bouton

    I love the idea that because you wrote a book, your opinion on the movie adaptation is sacrosanct. (Hell, the author is often what stands in the way of anything as they are ignorant of reasons for the property’s popularity.*) Both writers and studios are often clueless on how to bring a novel to the screen, and even when these adaptations are a success, many of the same folks fail to repeat the achievement.

    *George Lucas is a great example of a studio and writer in the same person having no clue whatsoever of why Star Wars was a hit, and The Phantom Menace was the result.

    • Steven Gaydos

      “I love the idea that because you wrote a book, your opinion on the movie adaptation is sacrosanct” Er, eh,umm, uh…who has this idea besides you?

      • Brian Bouton

        Er, eh, umm, uh…I live in America where if a book is adapted to the screen you will often hear that the author is displeased or was not consulted followed by rabid fans threatening ineffective boycotts over their author’s vision being spoiled.

        • Steven Gaydos

          Er ummmm, uh, maybe i misunderstood your comment. you seemed to be saying “writing a book means your opinion on OTHER PEOPLE’S BOOK ADAPTATIONS is sacrosanct.” Thanks for using the word sacrosanct, btw.