Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One unintended Life Lesson in "Saving Mr. Banks" you won't want to miss

I highly recommend seeing "Saving Mr. Banks" (No plot spoilers here)
Emma Thompson plays the persnickety, down right rude and cruel character of P.L. Travers.
Tom Hanks, as you know, plays the lovable Walt Disney.  I was on the verge of so many cascading emotions the entire length of the movie.  From start to finish, the plot built superb suspense & tension, and reeled me in the whole time.

The movie is the backstory of how Walt Disney (who worked hard for 20 years to land the project) acquires the rights from P.L. Travers to her "Mary Poppins" and the actual plot of the movie takes place once P.L. Travers agrees to negotiate terms for her story.  The movie also powerfully brought to life the different struggles that cultural differences play when people are seeing the same situation through different lenses, i.e., P.L. lives in London when she is invited to California to collaborate with Disney.

The story of Mr. Banks is far more than the inner workings of the struggles over contracts, writers, screenplays and production.  The story weaves back and forth in time and ultimately, it is a story of how our family of origin shapes and molds us.  I won't tell you how this is brought out in the movie, you need to experience the movie yourselves.  The movie has valuable lessons on negotiating with people who hold you hostage, it has lessons on teamwork, it even has lessons on how people can... well I must leave that last one off, I don't want to spoil the plot.  Still. The movie has one unintended lesson that the director is more than likely unaware of.

The unintended lesson that serendipitously hit home the hardest for me, came to light because we knew all about the movie "Mary Poppins" and our 15 year old son who my wife and brought with to movie, didn't.  We've seen the movie countless times as children, and Klay hadn't.  Why is this significant and what lesson was driven home here?  If you are unfamiliar with Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks is hard to fully appreciate.  You will laugh, but you won't cry.  You will enjoy the art of a good story, but you won't be captured by the story.  If you haven't seen Mary Poppins, you are on the outside of the story.  Tammy and I said to ourselves, we should have had Klay watch Mary Poppins first.  Several times thought the movie, Tammy and I laughed and sang songs, because we knew the plot of Mary Poppins, but Klay was lost.  So, we (as second generation Disney movie fans) would explain the parallel story of the original movie -- within the movie to Klay who was clueless. What's the lesson?

Here's the unintended lesson: You can't expect people to follow along with your story who don't know your story.  This is in no way a critique of the movie, it was excellent, and I hope it wins several Oscars.  Where I see the lesson's application, is in how we "do" church.  Most  second and third generation Christians think everyone else knows the story, the ritual, or the way we do church.  In reality, not everyone in church does (Churched or not, you can apply this to your organization's culture).  For me, there's nothing more important than church, and this movie has more lessons on leadership, negotiation,  people-skills and assimilation than a week's worth of Seminary lectures.  Indoctrination isn't the way to go -- instead-- acculturation, asking other's their point of view, learning the story behind the story, and walking through the story side-by-side, that's where the magic is.

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