Yes, this is a dual-purposed post that will cover both my opinions on Emma Thompson's performance in Saving Mr. Banks and the prospect that Meryl could've portrayed P.L. Travers in place of Thompson. Last night I saw the film and rather enjoyed it. I'm a big fan of several Disney movies, and although I think Mary Poppins is 60% shitty, I am in love with Dame Julie Andrews. A film therefore about the behind the scenes process of getting it from book to screen was sort of a no-brainer when it comes to pleasing this blogger.
Like American Hustle, I thought the film was good. I don't think any part of it was particularly fantastic, and I thought the flashback scenes were by far the weakest part of the film. They were no doubt necessary but probably too much. Emma Thompson (whom I absolutely adore) does a fine job. Is there anything particularly challenging about this role though? I'm not sure...at least how Thompson played it. It became too one-dimensional, as the woman just seemed chronically unhappy. We are shown why with the flashbacks, but I was hoping to see her humanized a tad more in the portrayal so that I actually cared about her. Thompson showed us some of that when the character realizes that she has to make a few concessions with her demands, I just wanted more.
Current rankings for the year as follows:
1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
4. Amy Adams (American Hustle)
5. Judi Dench (Philomena)
6. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
7. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
These critiques on Thompson are getting pretty picky, as I thought it was a nice performance. I imagine though that the dimension I was looking for and the extent to which she let go of her stranglehold on production of Poppins, would've been provided by Meryl. Technically Meryl would've been a better age for the film as well, as Travers would've bee in her 60's when all this was going on. I usually don't compare what I feel Meryl would've done in someone else's role during Oscar season, but we know there are several sources that reported early last year the rumor of her possible collaboration with Tom Hanks for Saving Mr. Banks. When news arrived of this possibility in February 2012, I posted about it and suggested that it would be fun to see Meryl join with Hanks, as the two had never worked together in a film. I also thought Meryl would get to try her hand at an Australian accent again, but I've since learned that although Travers spent part of her childhood in Australia, she lived in England most of her life and sounded quite British.
It became clear however as the months progressed that Meryl was not going to be involved with this picture, as filming was to begin in fall 2012, the same time as August: Osage County. I had no qualms about it at the time because I was sure August would be the far superior project. This is not to suggest that Meryl made the wrong choice, rather to say the popularity and expectation of Saving Mr. Banks doing well has surprised me. As the original script was blacklisted, it had been around for some time. Had things got going say six months earlier, they could've perhaps began filming in California (as almost all shooting was done around L.A.) in early spring 2012. Meryl was around the area a lot anyway for all the awards shows after the storm of Iron Lady nominations. I can't imagine why, if filming were wrapped by May 2012, the film couldn't have been ready for limited release by December of last year. That would've been nice spacing between Banks and Hope Springs (released in August), and would've provided Meryl another vehicle for awards recognition. I wager we would've seen her double nommed at the Globes and in better contention for Oscar.