That is not a word! – Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Saving Mr. Banks – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Director: John Lee Hancock
Writers: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
Stars: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell

Mary Poppins is one of those films that most people love, but who, like me, had no idea where the story came from or that it was originally a book. The author, Mrs P.L. Travers was a fascinating woman as we discover in this film. Emma Thompson really carries this film. Her diversity and skill in being able to portray anyone at any time (I recently re-watched some of the Harry Potter films and she is unrecognisable as Prof. Trelawny) is a blessing to the character of P.L. Travers. She is an unpleasant, particular, and snobbish kind of woman. Although she grew up in the outback of Australia she rejected her Australian nature for a British and Irish obsession. It is the contrast between the character from her early days in Australia with her family and her life after she left Australia that really give this film depth.

The story is simple enough, flashbacks to the little girl, Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley), with the ongoing saga of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) insisting she give them the rights to make the book of Mary Poppins into the film. But it is the simplicity and ordinary nature of the story that makes it a powerful tale. A girl who is continually with wanting to live in an imaginary world and the the world telling her that it is not a fairytale. The dissipation of hope and the insistence of harsh reality. The little girl is washed away through the bleakness of the world and yet, through all of this, she creates a wonderful world of fiction. An escape that captures the minds of millions of people. And it is this essential quality that Emma Thompson is able to present in beautiful clarity through her dealings with Walt Disney and the script and song writers of Mary Poppins.

Another stand out performance for me, mostly because I am Australian, is that of Colin Farrell. His Australian accent is perfectly subdued and subtle. So many times accents can be overdone, and Farrell managed to make it real. His charm and frivolity make the father of Ginty come alive. Without the rawness of the performance this film could have failed to bind together Mrs Travers’ past self and future self. The cohesion of the film is sturdy rather than flippant which is evidently the work of John Lee Hancock (The Blindside, The Rookie) as the director. To create a world where joy is balanced and juxtaposed with sadness.

I would never claim that this film is one of my favourites, it has its flaws, however I do believe that the essence of the film is an important tale to be told, such as the one in Mary Poppins. Without hope, playfulness, and a little imagination, this world is as bleak as we want to make it. We have minds that are capable of making even the smallest of chores a joy. Reality is only as harsh as we imagine it to be, so why not imagine it to be like a spoonful of sugar?

3.5/5

Advertisements

Immersive and all consuming – Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Cloud Atlas (2013)

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski »
Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski (written for the screen by), Tom Tykwer (written for the screen by), and Andy Wachowski (written for the screen by)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant

The thing that makes this 3 hour extravaganza captivating and able to hold one’s imagination and attention for such a lengthy period of time is the perfect balancing of story peaks and troughs. Through each scene there is a sense of intrigue, mystery, and interconnectedness that helps you piece each story together. Not knowing how each will end but wanting to know how each life affects the others is part of the journey of this film.

I haven’t read the novel but I intend to. Mainly because I’m fascinated to see how the tension is built in written form because it works so perfectly in the film. The Wachowski’s and Tykwer have taken Mitchell’s story and transported it onto screen so that it stands alone as a fascinating visual journey. Through editing, careful scripting and the soundtrack scoring, the peaks are powerful and come at the perfect moments in each sequence. The audience isn’t treated as unintelligent and being pushed and prodded through the complexities of the story. This film seeks to challenge our thinking. It is the reason why I think people won’t like Cloud Atlas, but I hope my pessimism is proved wrong because the challenge is worth the work.

There have been few moments in my life when I have been so captivated by a story in film that my entire body reacts to what is happening on screen. I can watch a film and do twenty other things at the same time and be able to tell you what it was about. But this film, oh my, this film transported me. It immersed me so fully and completely in its world that my mind, body, and spirit was involved in this film to the extent that I was left at the end of the film with an emptiness I can hardly describe. I wanted to watch it again immediately. I wanted to explore the world more fully, I wanted to know the characters more completely, and I wanted to escape again into the world of Cloud Atlas.

I could talk about the actors, the great prosthetics, the fantastic special effects, the comedy of the old people, the language of the tribal people, but I would be here all day. Instead I would like to leave you with the desire to see this film because of the experience I had in it. I know that everyone’s experience with this film will be different. It’s like the first time you hear that song that transfixes you and you replay it over and over because you’ve fallen in love with it, but you’ll never reclaim that first imagining, that first experience. Cloud Atlas is an immersive and all consuming cinematic experience that you should experience for yourself. Be captivated.

4/5

Connect and Cry – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Extremely Loud and Incredible Close (2011)

Director: Stephen Daldry
Writers: Eric Roth (screenplay), Jonathan Safran Foer (based on the novel by)
Stars: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock

Before I begin I have to say, I didn’t know much about this film when I walked into the cinema. I knew it was a book and that it had been acclaimed, and that people had said the film didn’t live up to the book. I walked out with tears still streaming down my face and with a new perspective on the world and people. I still haven’t read the book, but I don’t really want to because I loved the film so much and it made me feel so many emotions in the one film experience.

The story of 9/11 resonants for most people. No matter where you were, who you are, whether you knew someone that died there or not, you have been affected by it because it has shaped the start of the 21st century. Most people have a story about where they were when they heard (especially if you live in the western world), and so when someone tells their story it hits special kind of nerve. It has the power to bring people together. Just like the moon landing did for a generation before, or the start of the great wars for the generation before that. There is something both wonderful and terrifying about a world event that connects us and divides us.

This particular story is told through the life of a little boy whose experience of that day shapes even more so who he is, who he will become, and how he experiences the world. The way he is pushed to collect people’s stories, to explore New York, to bring people together, and to find his way back home draws you into his world. Oskar Schell is a strange boy, and I know a lot of people found Thomas Horn’s portrayal a little annoying but  I fell in love with the little lad and his family. His journey is tortured and Horn’s performance gives it a beauty and fight that was rich and pure. Sandra Bullock’s acting was, as always, breathtaking and heartbreaking as the mother of this tortured boy and Tom Hanks was as playful as ever.  The heart and soul that this film had was touching and I loved going along the journey with Oskar as he dealt with the grief and regret he had after losing his father in 9/11. The event that has shaped so many lives still has a power over us as the generations of the start of the 21st century and it is so important to keep telling our stories as we live with the repercussions of that event.