Another film people were dying to hate, and to be fair, portraying PL Travers (Emma Thompson) as The-Grinch-who-wants-to-keep-you-from-the-Poppins-you-love isn’t likely to tilt the audience towards the author. But biopics always play fast and loose with the facts, and this isn’t so much about Travers as about the idea that artworks inspire responses that often bemuse the artist. Fight as you might, once it’s out there, it will be what people make of it.
Two beats stood out for me. When the Grinch arrives in California, like all characters heading for a comic reduction, she’s full of opinions about what she can’t stand about Americans, film producers and cloying, animated musicals. Her first encounter with her antagonist, the Little Lord of Magic (Hanks’ Walt Disney) thrusts her into everything she hates, and it’s hard to suppress a smile at her suffering. The second beat is stranger, and more sympathetic to Travers. As Disney’s Elves (the Sherman Brothers) present Travers with their satirical song ‘Fidelity Fiduciary Bank’, she recalls her shame at one of her father’s (Colin Farrell) drunken outbursts. The intercutting of the song’s inception with Farrell’s public shaming is eye-catching, tying the film’s two narratives together with striking energy.
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