Inspired by true events, the film is a behind-the-scenes backstory about how Walt Disney (Hanks) had author P.L. Travers' book, Mary Poppins, made into a successful feature film.
: When it comes to creating a land of fantasy, fun and mirth for children, there wasn't much that Walt Disney couldn't do. So, when his daughters implore him to fulfill their wish and make a movie out of their favourite book, how could he refuse? It's a promise that would take him two decades to keep.
It turns out that Travers has a stiff upper lip seemingly made out of granite. But when the book royalties start to dry up, she grudgingly accepts the call from Hollywood, flies to Los Angeles and agrees to the adaptation, but only if it matches her lofty standards.
Sounds simple enough, think the scriptwriter Don DaGradi (Whitford) and songwriting brothers Richard and Robert Sherman (Schwartzman and Novak, respectively). How wrong they are! The grouchy Travers is finicky, cranky and an overall fusspot. She drives them up a wall each day and rejects their script as being "pulp".
Hancock often cuts to a parallel story, Travers' childhood set in the Australian outback, in 1901. She is brought up by her mother (Wilson) and her father (Farrell, brilliant) who she loves. The flashbacks attempt to explain how Travers traversed from fresh faced girl to a lady who is humourless and bordering on dictatorial. Ironically, if there's one thing that the movie could have used less of, it's the several flashbacks. There are just too many of them. So, it is almost a relief each time the scene shifts back to Los Angeles.
When Disney's charm doesn't work on her, he realizes that he can only understand and deconstruct Travers' difficult ways by tapping into his own childhood. In doing so, he uses empathy and not anger to try and melt Travers' frosty ways and to look at the movie as a kind of catharsis. Heartwarming without being soppy, this film makes for a thoroughly enjoyable watch.