With the Mary Poppins (the movie) turning 50 next year, now would seem to be the perfect time for this particular tale on the novel's original scribe. P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is the author of the much loved children’s book who, with financial bankruptcy on the horizon, finally agrees to meet Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) who has been hounding her for two decades to buy the rights to her book. However, Travers does not want this to be just another of Disney's 'silly little cartoons', and has a perfectionist vision almost impossible to realise as little does Disney know how personal this story really is to her.
So, medicine first. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the 'true' stories of both Travers’ and Disney’s real lives will be left baffled as to who these two characters are. As much as Walt wants to make acceptable movie versions of Travers characters, so too are Travers and Disney acceptable movie versions of their real-life counterparts. Also, Travers can’t seem to walk five feet without tripping over some emotional or psychological trigger that will send her reeling back to her childhood memories.
Now, on to the spoonful of sugar. Thompson, Hanks and Farrell (as young Travers’ alcoholic but loving father) will all most likely garner award attention, each bringing their own natural charm and likability to their roles. Thompson in particular, who we all know by now is one of the greatest and most overlooked actresses around, here manages to balance the acid-tongued barbs in the face of the endless Disney cheer but with an emotional resonance that will fully set the tear-ducts into overdrive. There’s also some great support from the likes of Paul Giamatti, Rachel Griffiths, Jason Schwartzman, Ruth Wilson and B.J. Novak.
While the film isn’t breaking any new ground in terms of story-telling (anyone who has seen Mary Poppins can tell you how THIS movie will end), it does succeed as a pure form of entertainment. Full of wit and whimsy, as well as being quite heart-breaking in places, it's just like every great Disney film so prepare yourself for tears of joy and sadness.