Saving Mr. Banks by John Lee Hancock

Saving Mr. Banks by John Lee Hancock

 

As a writer, it is my opinion that how authors view the film adaptation of their own work is irrelevant and inconsequential to the quality of the adaptation itself. For example, whether Stephen King appreciates Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining fundamentally does not make it a lesser film. This is the central question presented in John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks.

The story recounts Author P.L. Travers (Mary Poppins), writer of Mary Poppins, reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), who seeks to adapt her book for the big screen. As they are collaborating on the film adaptation, Travers reflects on her childhood growing up in Australia with her father (Colin Farrell), revealing her own personal attachments to the Mary Poppins story.

Emma Thompson breathes a great inner life into P.L. Travers, humanizing a role that is greatly restrained and otherwise very unlikable. Tom Hanks, combining his star persona and natural ease, gives us a living and breathing Walt Disney. Hanks makes everything look so easy. Colin Farrell turns an affecting performance as Travers’ chronic alcoholic father Travers Goff, and also props to Annie Rose Buckley as the young P.L. Travers. The heart of the story lies in the flashback segments, as we see P.L. Travers’ past with his father in Australia and it shows that P.L. Travers essentially wrote Mary Poppins as wish fulfillment.

Director John Lee Hancock balances the material perfectly. Even though I fundamentally disagree with Travers’ persnickety demand of complete faithfulness, I empathize deeply with why she was so overprotective of her own material. It makes for much of the laughs as we watch the gloom Travers single-handedly killing all the child-like enthusiasm of the staff at Disney.

It is probably best to see Mary Poppins first to get a more wholesome experience, as seeing the numerous classic scenes and songs that Travers could have prevented from ever being created gives a whole other level of tension. Also, stay for the credits for a surprise easter egg.

Despite probably being overshadowed in terms of awards recognition, Saving Mr. Banks is a very enjoyable experience. Audience will find laughs and tears, as it is a well-made feel good movie.

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We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lynne Ramsay

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lynne Ramsay

There are three Louis C.K. jokes about how parenting is the hardest job in the world, it is the only job you cannot quit and yet parents are never allowed to say it is hard in front of people. That idea taken to an extreme is the premise of We Need To Talk About Kevin.

What is that extreme? It is the worst child imaginable. The kid Kevin (played by Ezra Miller) in this movie is an evil cunt (excuse my French, but if you see this movie, you will understand) whose sole purpose is to hurt people without purpose. Why does he hurt people? He doesn’t even know, he just enjoys it with zero empathy. I hope Ezra Miller can get a date after the film’s release. Yes, it’s that kind of performance.

It’s funny how stories can take you places and make you feel things that would never be okay in real life. I remember watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona and remember rooting for Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johannson and Penelope Cruz’s odd threesome relationship because it made them all happy. I laughed, going “Damn you, Woody Allen for making me feel like this.” That’s what makes watching movies fun. And here’s the thing with this film: I wanted Kevin to die. I was thinking up horrible ways for him to die throughout the entire movie. The worst scenario I was wishing was Kevin’s mother Eva (played by Tilda Swinton) to curb stomp him and get it over with. We Need To Talk About Kevin took me to an unique place, an uncomfortable place sure, but somewhere I have never quite been – wanting a little child to die so her mom can be free of him.

Speaking of the mother, the story completely hangs on Tilda Swinton’s performance. Completely. There are scenes where the viewer is fully omitted from what she’s looking at, but we’re only allowed to interpret what it is through her facial reactions. She constantly plays two opposing emotions against each other. Her character Eva feels remorse for bringing this little motherfucker into existence but out of her duty as a mother she must stick by him. The ultimate tragedy is that Kevin came out of her womb. As a mother she is symbiotically connected to him (and the film underplays that as part of it’s unnerving tension) and therefore responsible for his actions, even though she completely probably wishes she never had him to begin with.

The soundscape in this film is very noteworthy. It represents Eva’s emotional state from her first person perspective. Much of the score is these dark tones, which helps physicalize experience Eva’s inner unexplainable turmoil. Throughout the film Kevin has a habit of doing little things with his hands that are unnerving: he’s mashing breakfast cereal into pieces, snapping Crayons in half, throwing jam/paint all over the place, rolling bread rolls into little balls as if he’s constantly picking at his mother’s patience. Contrastingly, Eva hands are constantly cleaning, wiping, scrapping, as if she’s trying to wipe the imprint of her son away. All these little sounds helps you experience what it’s like being right up close to Kevin and how anarchic and annoying he is. We experience her personal first-person version of hell and it’s an unnerving experience.

There’s a running motif with the colour red, it follows with Eva in her younger pre-Kevin years and eventually the color red appears along with Kevin. It’s meaning develops into different things as the story progresses along. It physicalized the symbiotic relationship between the mother and the son. It represented other things too, but I won’t go into it any further. Yes, spot the colour red!

Lynne Ramsay understands faces and how it can evoke a feeling like a landscape (Seriously, Google Ezra Miller’s face or look at his face above). I like this trait in a director. I can’t explain it.

This was very well done. There’s a lot of craft to telling a great story. I can’t recommend it more! Damn, I’m going to have to come up with a Top Ten List for 2011.

P.S. A reason to watch the end credits. This movie has a “Computer Virus Maker”.

My Week with Marilyn by Simon Curtis

The two Michelle Williams performances that I have in my mind are from Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine. Therefore, my general visual impression of her in my head is the stressed-out mother holding a baby, due to the fact that she gave strong performances in those 2 films. In My Week with Marilyn, I do not see one hint of that. If there are any Michelle Williams-isms, I don’t see them. You don’t doubt that she is Marilyn Monroe in both the onscreen and offscreen versions. She just is Marilyn Monroe.

Last year, a biopic of Bruce Lee named Bruce Lee, My Brother came out, which covered Bruce Lee’s early life in Hong Kong before he moved to the United States. In that particular period of his life, he hadn’t yet become the fully formed martial artist that we know him for. Even with that, it was impossible for the filmmakers from crowbaring a couple of fight scenes into the film. And here’s my point: You can’t make a biopic of Bruce Lee without fighting. And likewise, it’s impossible to make a biopic of Marilyn Monroe without gazing at her or referring to her how seductively beautiful she was.

A lot of people are going to praise Michelle Williams. It is a wonderful performance by it’s own right and I’m not taking anything away from her. But that alone doesn’t warrant a good film. What general audience will overlook is the entire cast of this film that does the gazing. It’s not enough that they made Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe is attractive. It’s the people that run up to her, the men that want her to blow kisses at them, younger women wanting to be her and older women being jealous or afraid she’ll snatch their husbands. The entire cast essentially sells how beautiful Marilyn Monroe is equally and altogether I think that should be praised as well.

Kenneth Branagh gets down Laurence Olivier’s diction and I rather enjoyed Judi Dench and Emma Watson in their small roles. It’s nice to know that Paula Strasberg (Marilyn’s Method Acting coach, played by Zoë Wanamaker) looked like Edna Mode from The Incredibles.

The film’s structure is interesting, it’s a musical comedy masquerading as a biopic drama, but it’s really in the end a musical comedy. People are taking this seriously because it’s about famous people and the fact that it really happened. It doesn’t matter if this really happened or not. The story hops along fast montages and song numbers, rather than developing a pathos. It behaves much more like a musical comedy than a drama, and it should judged as such. It’s essentially a coming-out-age story about a boy’s first love. It’s all good fun, but very competent good fun.

I have a female friend who once told me that I should never date girls that quote Marilyn Monroe on their Facebook profile. (“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” ) She said it frees them up to act however they want to in any given moment. I didn’t really think about it before till I watched this film. I totally get it now.

Excuse me, while I go delete some people.