This year, fathers loomed large (and caused havoc) at the multiplex
At least Ahmad's no Charles Dickens. Betcha didn't know the man behind Tiny Tim talked a lady into making her daughter his concubine, as depicted in The Invisible Woman (also out next month). Worse, Mom (Kristin Scott Thomas) approves because she knows the pretty lass (Felicity Jones) will never receive a better offer. Ralph Fiennes, who also directs, plays Dickens like a daddy with deep pockets and deeper emotional issues. We know he can always pay the girl's expenses and return to his baby-wrecked wife — but by all means, let's celebrate the great writer! While I'm on the tangent of fleeing fathers: someone needs to tell Inside Llewyn Davis' title character about condoms. (Preferably not Anchorman 2's Brian Fantana, however.)
But the honorary Oscar for Best Portrayal of a Wayward Provider goes to Colin Farrell. It's mesmerizing how the man can be so lovable and yet so simultaneously disappointing. In Saving Mr. Banks, he's Travers Goff, a banker who nips bourbon in the office and tells the most drunk-mazing stories. The world he gives his children, including Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, is filled with wonders; the one he forces his wife to occupy is oppressive and darkly real. When he develops consumption (less insulting than the clap but still bad), an imposing agony aunt (Rachel Griffiths) comes to rescue the family, and a legend is born.
When she's wooed by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), who's intent on bringing the Banks family to the big screen, prim Mrs. Travers (Emma Thompson) resists. She's protective of Mr. Banks, the father in Mary Poppins — a character she created as an act of catharsis. Meanwhile, Disney assumes the role of patriarch to America's children for his own bleak-childhood reasons. Banks may be one of the few films about daddy issues that doesn't look like Girls Gone Wild.
Making a living can be hard and taking care of loved ones can be messy. Enter Spike Jonze's Her, a movie about the ultimate no-fuss girlfriend: a witty, adoring computer operating system blessed with the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Her is the biggest campaign against childbearing since 1997's Gattaca. We all have issues with our parents — but between 533 happy endings and the positioning of an escaped convict as the ideal man, we should caution against looking for answers in the movies. If you get confused, ask your father. *
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