Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why All Writers Should Go See Saving Mr. Banks

This  inspiring movie tells the story of how Walt Disney convinced P. L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, to give him the rights to the movie. The acting is superb, but the story is wonderful. Filled with humorous moments, there is a very serious storyline as well since the process of working on the script with Disney’s writers and music team gives Mrs. Travers flashbacks to her young life. Very early on it is clear that something in her past wounded her and that the Mary Poppins stories are near to her heart because of it. While everyone is frustrated by her prickliness, as well as her insistence on no animation or use of the color red in the picture, Mr. Disney ultimately prevails by sharing about his own boyhood struggles and telling her that sometimes you have to decide when reliving terrible times is enough. The recurring flashbacks may be distracting to some viewers, but are so poignant and build tension toward the climax.

Do I understand that the film takes liberties with the truth? To that I say this film isn’t a documentary, nor is it meant to be an exposĂ©. Every film about real people takes liberties with their lives in order to tell the story. Some may not like how Walt Disney steamrollers the vulnerable old lady into compromising on her dream. Some say that the film doesn’t reveal enough about Mrs. Travers’s faults, including how she and her adopted son became estranged, or that it makes her seem like a dried up old maid when she had several romantic relationships. Some may point out that Mrs. Travers actually did not like the film, and refused to allow sequels. Those people miss the point.

The story brilliantly illustrates how authors can use the painful parts of their past to fuel their stories and how cathartic it can be to do so, even for writers of fiction. As a writer I was enthralled at how clearly the connection was demonstrated. Most of film’s criticism focuses on the fact that this film glosses over truths, but the ultimate truth of this tale is the benefit of baring one’s soul to the world through stories. In a story an author is free to rewrite the past, so to speak, and make it better. Or, perhaps, just let it go. This film shows how the ability to rewrite the past is a very powerful freedom, one that can heal the storyteller and bring magic to the reader. To all writers, absolutely go see this one!

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