This is the story before the story ever was filmed of the beloved children’s book “Mary Poppins”, and its true ordeal of how it made it to the big screen. The story travels between present times of 1961 to 1906 from which the story is based upon.
The film is about author Pamela "P. L." Travers (Emma Thompson) struggle of selling the story of “Mary Poppins”, while Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), takes his 20 year pursuit of this famous and beloved story to a final conclusion. Her struggle of selling the rights puzzles Walt so much that he fears this might end his promise that he made to his daughters 20 years before. Pamela continues to discourage Walt and his team of writers, while trying to hide the true story behind the best seller.
The story begins in 1961 England with Pamela’s notification of Walt’s desire to meet with her in person in Los Angeles. It then brings her to Burbank, California where Walt and his team consisting of co-writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and composers/lyricists Richard M. Sherman (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert B. Sherman (B. J. Novak), try to convince her to go ahead with selling the rights to her book. With help from the studio chauffeur, Ralph (Paul Giamatti), the team shows Pamela that Walt Disney will preserve this classic tale and show it to the world.
Her past story that the book refers to takes place in 1906 Australia with a family known as the Banks. The father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) is a banker by trade and has recently lost his job. He must try to find another job to support his wife Margaret Goff (Ruth Wilson), and his two daughters Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley) and Biddy (Lily Bigham). You wonder the relationship that Pamela has to this family that moves from Maryborough, Australia 15 hours by train to Allora, Australia in search for work. The story continues to show the troubles the family endures until help arrives in the form of Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths).
Director John Lee Hancock presents this amazing story in an interesting way. He decides to chronologically present Pamela’s modern day struggle along with the true story set in 1906 Australia. He continues to synchronize the film by including some events that occurred in the present as well as in the past. For example, when Pamela travels, the Banks family travels, and when Pamela visits a carnival the Banks do as well.
This is a very interesting and entertaining story of the processes that studios can go through to acquire a story. It also shows how a novel can have different meanings from what the author presents to what the reader may see. Similarities are presented on the screen but the story background may be entirely different. This is a worthwhile film for all to see.
Final Grade: I give this an A- for its excellent storyline and fantastic presentation of how the tale was told.
Release Date: December 20th, 2013
Director: John Lee Hancock
Runtime: 125 minutes (2 hours and 5 minutes)
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.