Faith and hope

This de­light­ful movie al­most makes you over­look the lib­er­ties it takes with the truth.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - FROM PAGE 17 Re­view by SHARMILLA GANE­SAN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

philom­ena swoons over ro­mance nov­els, be­lieves in the in­her­ent good of people, and tells them they are “one in a mil­lion”, while Martin – be­ing a been-there-done-that­can-we-move-on-please kind of guy – rolls his eyes. Af­ter all, his agree­ing to take on the story of philom­ena and the track­ing down of her long-lost son, a “hu­man­in­ter­est story”, is ex­actly the kind of stuff he usu­ally avoids be­cause it is about “vul­ner­a­ble, weak-minded, ig­no­rant people”, and fod­der for the same.

Their very dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and con­trast­ing be­lief sys­tems make for a sound plat­form to ex­plore the re­li­gious and moral themes of the movie.

Be­cause above all, Philom­ena is a cau­tion­ary tale that pro­vides a glimpse into how ut­terly con­vinced people can be of what is right and wrong, how sick­en­ing re­li­gious big­ots can be, and how smug sel­f­righ­teous­ness can be so eas­ily jus­ti­fied, if only you look hard enough.

The nuns – with the ex­cep­tion of one – are por­trayed as mean, cruel and un­re­pen­tant, with not much chang­ing from the 1950s to the 2000s, as they seem to have no qualms about ly­ing and burn­ing records to cover up the con­vent’s sor­did past.

Philom­ena won Best screen­play award at the Venice film fes­ti­val and Best Adapted screen­play at the Bri­tish Academy film Awards. It was nom­i­nated in four cat­e­gories at the 2014 Academy Awards, and had three Golden Globes nom­i­na­tions.

And it’s not hard to see the rea­son for its pop­u­lar­ity.

As the movie draws to a close, it starts to feel more like a fa­mil­iar story, one that has been told mul­ti­ple times, with many more to come.

This might be the story of one mother who spent a life­time search­ing for her lit­tle boy – but it is per­haps not a very dif­fer­ent story that many moth­ers and their lost chil­dren can prob­a­bly tell. In many cases, this fa­mil­iar­ity might breed con­tempt (read: bad and bor­ing movie). But in Philom­ena, it is great.

Aspoon­ful of su­gar helps the medicine go down, and in the case of Sav­ing Mr. Banks, a heap­ing spoon­ful of Dis­ney­fi­ca­tion cer­tainly helps a dif­fi­cult real-life story go down much eas­ier.

Telling the tale of how the beloved Dis­ney movie Mary Pop­pins made it to the sil­ver screen, Sav­ing Mr. Banks re­volves around Mary Pop­pins au­thor p.l. Travers (played by Emma Thomp­son) and her volatile re­la­tion­ship with Walt Dis­ney (Tom Hanks) as he tries to con­vince her to let his stu­dio adapt her book into a film.

Given that this is a Dis­ney pro­duc­tion, you’d fully ex­pect that they’d smoothen the events’ rough edges as much as they can – and so Walt here is less a bull­doz­ing stu­dio head than he is a lov­able, fa­therly vi­sion­ary, and Travers’ dis­like for much of the movie is cheer­fully por­trayed as a be­grudg­ing tol­er­ance. not to men­tion the fact that, in real life, most of Travers’ thoughts on the movie were sim­ply ig­nored by Walt and his stu­dio. And yet, here’s the thing: Sav­ing Mr. Bank is a won­der­fully-made movie, so much so that you of­ten for­get (or want to for­get) its rewriting of his­tory.

Beau­ti­fully shot to cap­ture Hol­ly­wood in the 1960s, it is a movie that will ap­peal to any Dis­ney fan, as we are taken step-bystep through the jour­ney of a clas­sic be­ing made. And yet, per­fectly bal­anced be­tween hu­mour and drama, the movie doesn’t only feel like a great homage, but also sim­ply an af­fect­ing, hu­man story.

Aided by a strong script by Kelly Mar­cel and sue smith, and deft di­rec­tion by John lee Han­cock, Sav­ing Mr. Banks hits all the right emo­tional notes: leav­ing us with big smiles as we hear strains of Chim Chim Cher-ee, misty-eyed as we un­der­stand why Mary Pop­pins is so im­por­tant to Travers or gig­gling at Travers’ re­ac­tion to the an­i­mated pen­guins in the film.

As you may have guessed from its ti­tle, the film is about fa­thers, in all their com­plex­i­ties, and the re­la­tion­ships their chil­dren have with them (Mr Banks is the fa­ther in Mary Pop­pins).

John Lee Han­cock emma thomp­son, tom Hanks, Colin Far­rell, Paul Gia­matti, ruth Wil­son

The movie shifts back and forth from 1960s los Angeles to the early 1900s in Aus­tralia, where we are shown Travers’ child­hood and par­tic­u­larly, her re­la­tion­ship with her fa­ther, Travers Goff (Colin far­rell). It is from Goff, the movie sug­gests, that Travers in­her­ited her rich imag­i­na­tion and her flights of fancy.

And yet, for all his ado­ra­tion of his chil­dren, Goff was a trou­bled man, and the movie doesn’t shy away from por­tray­ing the dam­age this in­flicted on young Travers, and clev­erly draws par­al­lels be­tween her child­hood bag­gage and her book.

There are other fa­thers in the movie, too, each pre­sent­ing a dif­fer­ent, and some­times dif­fi­cult facet of the role: Walt him­self, tire­lessly ded­i­cated to adapt­ing Mary Pop­pins into a movie be­cause of a prom­ise he made his daugh­ters; his re­la­tion­ship with his own fa­ther, which is how (in the movie, at least) he fi­nally gets through to Travers; and, in a small but un­for­get­table role, paul Gia­matti as Travers’ driver Ralph, whose sunny out­look on life masks con­stant wor­ries about his daugh­ter.

Sav­ing Mr. Banks’ big­gest strength is its cast, who all turn in ex­cel­lent per­for­mances. Thomp­son finds the heart within her dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter to make us em­pathise with her, and any­one who grew up watch­ing Walt Dis­ney on tele­vi­sion will be de­lighted by Hanks’ spot-on por­trayal of him. far­rell, too, does a heart­break­ingly good job play­ing Goff, a good man who al­lows his demons to con­quer him.

Mean­while, the por­trayal of re­al­life char­ac­ters like song­writ­ing duo Robert and Richard sher­man (B.J. novak and Ja­son schwartz­man) and screen­writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whit­ford) add a lot of en­joy­ment to the pro­ceed­ings.

so for all its em­bel­lish­ments – and there cer­tainly are plenty – Sav­ing Mr. Banks man­ages to still feel gen­uine, and tell a story that is likely to ring true with more than a few of us. Af­ter all, how many of us would rather a bit­ter pill than a spoon­ful of su­gar?

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