Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stories Matter

Well, of course I think stories matter - I spend an inordinate amount of time writing about them, especially the televisual kind.  But it's an undeniable truth - stories matter.  They are cautionary and tall tales, spun for the amusement of the audience and the instruction of same.  Fairy tales tell us the perils of straying from the path, family tales remind us of why Sissy has that thin scar on her eyebrow, and national tales teach us the values we as a society hold dear.

With all that in mind, run, do not walk, to see Saving Mr. Banks.  I have not seen Disney's Mary Poppins in many a year and I knew nothing of the history behind the books.  Saving Mr. Banks made me want to stop at the video store on the way home to rent Mary Poppins and I'm pretty sure at some point in the future when I'm in a particularly mule-headed mood, my husband's going to look at me and say, "Get on the horse, Pamela."

Tom Hanks is wonderful as Walt Disney (seriously - is there nothing the man can't do?), a man who has built an empire on a cartoon mouse, yet hasn't managed to convince a spinster author to let him make a movie from her stories.  The film has an extraordinary supporting cast and you'll see many familiar faces, but the shining star of this film is Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers.  Her Travers is stern, borderline rude, and nearly unlikable, all of which could have made her into a broadly-sketched caricature, but in Thompson's skillful, subtle hands, Travers is sympathetic and we see the harshness as a sort of protective shell.  (Colin Farrell has a good bit to do with that, as well.)

I could go on and on about this one.  Suffice it to say that I found myself tearing up at some hard truths that the film tells.  Children are resilient and they often move forward more successfully than adults, who so often break when they look back.

Does it take liberties with the truth?  Of course it does - this is a tale, after all.  Then again, there is more than one kind of truth - a fact that all storytellers understand automatically.  Saving Mr. Banks is a beautiful tale, well told.  

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