Sunday, February 8, 2015

Forget ironic. That's...iconic.

Not that you asked, but I recall really enjoying Steven Spielberg's Lincoln [review]. It was a fascinating look at one of the great men in the history of the United States. But when I think back to the film, it's not really ol' Honest Abe that I tend to focus on. No, sadly my mind often drifts to Mary Todd Lincoln, played by the impossibly delightful Sally Field. And to put it bluntly, in that film, I hated that bitch. I realize that makes me sound like a sexist asshole (mostly fair assessment, by the way) but Mary Todd really was just the worst. Luckily the film didn't focus on her and her endless berating of those around her. Instead, we spent the bulk of the run-time with the iconic man standing next to her.

Saving Mr. Banks, though having nothing to do with Lincoln, left me with a very similar (albeit worse) taste in my mouth. But instead of focusing on Walt Disney, this film tells the tale of P.L Travers, the woman who wrote Mary Poppins. Travers is a complicated woman, undoubtedly, but she is also borderline insufferable. And after 125 minutes with her and her relentless pursuit of destroying fun, it was going to take way more than a spoon full of sugar to make any of this go down.

I know I'm way off the rails, um, again, but did you ever see Blue Jasmine [review]? Emma Thompson probably has, and her version of Travers is like an unholy mix of Cate Blanchette's Jasmine and Field's Mary Todd Lincoln. It's not a bad performance, far from it. But I've never wanted to actually choke my television more. 

My wife, somewhat unbeknownst to me, is a giant fan of Mary Poppins. It was one of the movies in heavy rotation during her childhood. Two weeks ago, she attempted to show the 1964 classic to me (I'd never seen it), but we both ended up passing out about 90 minutes in. Being the wonderful husband that I am, I thought she would enjoy Saving Mr. Banks. And unsurprisingly, she did. In fact, she stayed awake the whole time. How pleasant is the life I lead!
While my life may indeed be rather pleasant (on weekends, anyway), the reason this movie is anything but has to do with literally every single thing about P.L. Travers. She seems to loathe existence, and through probably 100 minutes of flashback, we see firsthand why that's the case. Apparently her dad, a whimsical fellow, was alarmingly prone to getting drunk and ruining everything. Young P.L. appears to have been a good kid, but her fahja's battle with the bottle ultimately trumps the love of his daughter, resulting in her maturing into a massive control freak. It makes enough sense, sure, but Travers' awful past doesn't seem like it warrants her current level of T-1000-esque determination to have everything just so.

Some of you out there -with the ability to empathize- will likely feel for her, but for whatever reason, I simply couldn't. Maybe it's that the flashbacks were so heavy-handed they inadvertently became funny, or maybe I have an irrational hatred of an extremely bitter Emma Thompson. But whatever it is, I didn't want to spend another minute in either the past or the present. Pardon me, Mr. Disney, could I have a minute? Or a hundred and twenty five?

While more time with Walt would have been appreciated, I wish the same could be said for the Yays and Boos. Their kingdom is anything but magic.


  • Paul Giamatti. No matter the movie, no matter the role, Pauly G is routinely my favorite part of whatever I’m watching. He's awesome here.
  • This too, shall pass. Super Mega Bonus points are awarded to Saving Mr. Banks, for allowing the aforementioned Giamatti to unleash his finishing move: kneeling down and saying a kind thing to a hurt woman we’re not sure we like.
  • A great man playing another great man. I mean, Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney? That’s like having Jesus play Tom Brady. 
  • Secretary Lady. She was the right kind of bubbly. You know, back when it was okay for secretaries to smile and such.
  • Travers' dad is a real charmer, you know, so they got Colin Farrell to play him.  Make sense, right?But, he’s also an out-of-control alcoholic, understood by a select few. Sooo...well...nevermind.
  • Travers, despite spitting venom at humanity, actually made me laugh when she refered to Disneyland as Walt’s “dollar printing machine.”
  • And speaking of the Magic Kingdom, it’s pretty awesome when Walt strolls through…passing out autographs. Not signing, mind you. Distributing.
  • And finally, Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema. Probably five hundred times in our relationship, has she nudged me toward a movie that I never wanted to see, and promptly passed out minutes later. Not this time, even if I was desperately praying she would.
That's funny. I had that expression the whole time, too.

  • While I've already mentioned ol' Bullseye, I do have to jeer just about everything having to do with her dad. Yes, it's terrible what happened to him. But it's also just terrible, too.
  • Travers to a mother seated near her on a plane: Will the child be a nuisance? How does someone not choke this bitch out?
  • It's rather ironic that the creator of Mary Poppins hates music. 
  • She also hates anything silly. Or red. She also hates Dick Van Dyke (and maybe all other Dicks, too). Oh, and animated penguins as well. Once she saw them, she basically was like I'm out this bitch.
  • There are countless scenes where they go through the script with her that are just awful to watch. Jason Voorhees just kills you, you know? He doesn't make you feel shitty first.
  • You know how Travers' dad sucks at life? Well, believe you me...Mom ain't exactly got it figured out either.
  • The reveal of the real Mary Poppins was a bit of a letdown. You know how many banisters she slid up? Not many. 
  • And finally, Mrs. Two Dollar Cinema for selecting this. I watch a lot of shitty movies because I try to keep it at or under ninety minutes. Do you know how many 125 minute movies I watch? Not many. 
You know, I've been working on this post for the better part of a week. There have been many setbacks I have had to overcome: parent conferences, dead computers, crying children, returning spouses, barking dogs - you name it. I even tried to finish this in another state (Panera's WiFi sucks). I'm not saying those are worse than, say, an alcoholic dad or being so worried about my dear Abraham. 

It's probably a tie. But you don't hear me complaining....


  1. I like this one more than you, but I dont all the Oscar noms it got last year, save for Emma's. Granted, she is everything you say she is, but man is she good at it. I also hated her guts. Yeah, the flashbacks were heavy-handed, bit they worked okay for me. Overall, I think its a decent movie with one awesome performance.

    1. I guess she was good at being insufferable, but she seemed almost inhuman to me. Sure it's a good performance, but the lack of depth the character was allowed choked the life out of it. It's no fault of Thompson's, obviously, but I couldn't get past it.

      My wife likely agrees with you. She liked the movie enough. Wish I could say the same.

  2. LOL, I liked this so much more than you did and absolutely LOVED Thompson in this :-P

    But yay for your wife staying awake...right?

    1. You are nuts, man! Loving Thompson in this is damn near impossible. I get what you're saying...but still. Insufferable. Times 1,000.

      Yeah...Yay to the wife. This time.

  3. I liked it a little more than you but yeah, Thompson's character was really sour. Also the scenes with Ruth Wilson who had the most ridiculous scenes - the fuck with her walking into the lake?! - infuriated me because she is so talented and I wish she had better things to do, all her good roles come from TV where the good writing seems more present nowadays. I did however love Farrel's work and I thought it was quite edgy of Disney to feature an alcoholic who is actually a positive and loving character.

    1. Sour! That's putting it mildly, no?

      Holy shit, her stroll into the lake was ridiculous. I'm sure she's a talented lady...but my eyes damn near rolled out of my head.

      I'm actually with you about the dad, as his character is very un-Disney. I didn't really think of it that way. He was a good guy, but when he imploded it felt silly to me. Not the subject, obviously, just the way it was portrayed.

  4. For whatever reason, I really enjoyed Banks. I was kind of a blubbering idiot at the end of it and I have no idea what it was that got me (Thompson's performances?) I've never even seen Marry Poppins (I'm not a huge Disney fan, either.) There must have been something in the air that night.

    1. Honestly, I'm teetering on the edge of 'blubbering idiot' through the majority of my waking day. But for whatever reason (likely the general sourness of Travers), I was 900% in the other direction during this one. I was stonefaced basically the entire time. Maybe there was something in the air in my house, too? My guess? Rage.

      I don't imagine I'll ever finish Mary Poppins, as arriving to that party in 2015, is about forty years too late. I can see how someone would find it enjoyable, but only having grown up with it? Now?'s pretty ridiculous.