I have long admired the acting force that is British Actress Emily Blunt. She’s been on my TV show twice, once for “The Jane Austen Book Club.”where I interview her by satellite. She was in London where she said, “It was pissing down with rain.” Now that’s not something Mary Poppins would never EVER say. This is without a doubt the iconic role that is going to make her very, very famous and will define her career for the rest of her days. And maybe even win her a Best Actress Oscar.
She was just nominated for her”practically perfect in every way” British nanny that descends from the lovely, fog-covered London skies to save the Banks children once again. But this time they are all grown up and played remarkably sympathetically by the brilliant Ben Whishaw and the divinely demure Emily Mortimer. It is 1930 and they still live in the charming house on Cherry Tree Lane, but here’s where director Rob Marshall had a master stoke of genius. They are on the verge of being evicted.
So beneath the flaming Technicolor flim-flammery, there is a great core of sadness underlying “Mary Poppins Returns.” Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins senses that there is real trouble brewing here and that only she can fix it. This gives the always startlingly original actress a role that she can really sink her teeth into, and probably will play for ever. If she wanted to. There is a real sense of pain and a core of sadness that is motivating her Poppins to do what she does best – Cheer every one up. She’s like a supernatural social worker.
Blunt plays her with a tinge of something akin to regret. She knows in her heart of hearts that she really CAN’T help the Banks’ in any practical way. Her magic only goes so far. Or does it? And Nannys DO have to leave, eventually. That’s where her sadness comes from. As much as she loves the Banks’, she inevitably knows there will be a moment to go to say “It’s time.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda is on hand, too, in the Dick Van Dyke role, as twere, as Mary’s comical side-kick. Here transmorgrofied in into a lamplighter. He seems wildly miscast here, but his British accent is better than Van Dyke’s (who is in THIS movie, too!)so I’ll give him a pass for bounce-ability.
Also on hand is a new character, Mary’s Blatvian cousin Topsy who tells them all she is “Turning Turtle” a show-stopper number that allows Streep to out-camp her Florence Foster Jenkins role .That’s camp for you. The greatest of all addictions. Once you touch even your little left toe into it, you can never get out of it.
If you can imagine such a thing. She does more bumps and grinds per minute than any one in film history. And if it was anyone but Meryl Streep doing it you would say “STOP!” “Too much!” With Meryl you say, “You just keep twerking it, girl..”
The charming composer/lyricists are straight from Broadway. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are so endlessly tuneful and prolific, it’s simply amazing. My favorite has to be “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and “There’s No Where to Go But Up!” sung by Angela Lansbury. Yes, she’s in it, too. Even the background music is quite enchanting. And every now and then they slip a little touch of the original Sherman brothers classic score. Just a few notes, mind you, but it is enough to send one flying up and down memory lane, in the best possible way.
It’s a delight. It’s an epic and I think it’s going to be nominated for Best Picture and many, many below the line categories. Sandy Duncan’s costumes are heaven-on-earth, right down to Mary’s red shoe laces. And of course, the extraordinary Emily Blunt will be nominated for Best Actress. And she could win, too! This is a film that will melt the hearts of every hardened cynic in Hollywood. And you’ll end concluding that we all need a Mary Poppins in our lives.
“Mary Poppins” is not just a sequel. It’s a classic.