Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s crass and culturally clueless attempts to persuade Mrs. PL Travers, the very English (but actually Australian) author of Mary Poppins, to turn her book into a Disney film. Now Missiz (that’s an inside joke) was a woman who was notoriously close to her subject, and a lot of the humour of the piece comes from the culture clash between the Yanks and the Brits, as the studio kak-handedly attempts to (unsuccessfully) charm Mrs Travers – as well as her cracking put-downs in response. It’s not necessarily an easy watch though, because it veers towards maudlin as the making of the movie brings back sad memories from the author’s own past. Anyway, Emma Thompson is just so good, you kind of want her to be happy and get her own redemption from the film.
A lot of the movie is spent on the gorgeous Disney lot in Burbank, where I spent a fairly miserable summer with AFCI and the PGA’s Produced By Conference. It’s lovely to see those leafy, immaculate lanes again (even though I hated every minute when I was actually there.) In fact the whole movie is beautifully styled and you can almost smell the sixties. Chlorine and sweat, apparently. Chlorine and sweat.
My friend Jan will not eat onions nor watch a movie that features Tom Hanks. And whilst I really don’t get the onion thing, I admit I’ve often been with him when it comes to the squeaky Mr. Hanks. But times are a-changing. After last year’s Da Vinci Code, in which he wasn’t too bad, then the really excellent Charlie Wilson’s War (review soon!), the New York Times reports that he’s currently on set in Rome working on the Dan Brown sequel “Angels and Demons.” And it’s causing excitement.
Patrizia Prestipino, head of Rome’s provincial department of tourism, said, “A film like this could relaunch American tourism,” which has dropped by 6 percent this year from the same period last year (largely because of the weak dollar). The story takes place in some of the most magnificent spots in Rome, including the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.
“For us it’s like free advertising,” Ms. Prestipino said. “I say the more films they produce in Rome, the better.”
Clever lady, that. Before “The Da Vinci Code,” Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland was averaging 38,000 visitors a year; in 2006, the year the movie was released, 176,000 visitors came.
Incidentally, Rome already has a tour inspired by the Angels and Demons book that’s already encouraged some 600 people a month to part with a 56 euro/$87 fee. With the film due for release in May 2009, the tour organisers must be rubbing their hands with gleeful anticipation.