The in-flight movies to and from Washington on my recent trip to Malice Domestic included two recent, but very different, successes. As sometimes happens, my reactions to them was shaped to some extent by initial expectations. From the reviews, I expected American Hustle to be a brilliant crime comedy, and found it enjoyable but slightly over-rated, whereas I wasn't sure that Saving Mr Banks would be my spoonful of sugar, but in the end, I really loved it.
Both films are based on real events, but both take liberties with the facts in order to strengthen the story and entertainment value. American Hustle stars the reliable and versatile Christian Bale, along with Amy Adams, who is terrific in her role as a woman masquerading as a British aristocrat. They are confidence tricksters who become over-confident themselves, and there are plenty of enjoyable scenes and funny lines. l liked it, but to be honest, I soon forgot most of the detail of the story.
Saving Mr Banks is a story about a story - and about a story-teller. It recounts how P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) reluctantly goes to the States to see what sort of a mess Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) is likely to make of his adaptation of Mary Poppins before giving up her rights in the story. Both Thompson and Hanks are quite brilliant, and the story gains from the flashbacks which explain much (eventually) about Travers' behaviour.
The conflict between Travers and Disney entertained me enormously. There are bound to be sacrifices made when a book is adapted for television or film, and all you can do as an author, I suspect, is just hope that you drop lucky. You certainly can't control your fate, and in real life (unlike the film, which sought to increase dramatic tension) Travers had already sold the rights in Mary Poppins before she met Disney. An odd woman, by all accounts, but I'd like to think that she was happy with the result. She certainly should have been - for most of us, to get that lucky remains a dream. A super, involving film, and I heartily recommend it..