I don’t have a particular connection to the original Mary Poppins, so I enjoyed Mary Poppins Returns well enough. I agree with Kristy that this reboot/sequel/thing hewed a little too close to the preceding film, but also, Lin-Manuel Miranda doing a ridiculous Cockney accent and Ben Whishaw with a very persnickety mustache? Sign me up!
But there is something I wondered while watching Mary Poppins Returns, when Aunt Jane (Emily Mortimer) was introduced as a labor organizer for the group SPRUCE and when the entire plot of the movie revolves around whether her brother Michael (Whishaw) will scrape together enough money to save the family home: Uh, why isn’t this movie about class warfare?
SPOILERS FOR MARY POPPINS RETURNS AHEAD, BE WARNED
Maybe our beloved Petr Knava has possessed my body, but SERIOUSLY. And yes I know this is a Disney movie, but WHATEVER. The entire premise is that the Banks family and dozens of others are being beaten back by predatory loaning and evil bankers! And one of the characters is an advocate for workers’ rights! And there is a group of disenfranchised leeries doing BMX tricks and popping and locking and carrying burning torches all over the place! Why isn’t Jane encouraging them to, I don’t know, march upon the bank and take it by force?
OK, yeah. That’s a little much … OR IS IT?
In my dream world, we get an unauthorized spinoff film where Jane actually has stuff to do, unlike in this movie, where she basically just pats Michael’s arm consolingly and has a meet-cute with Miranda’s lamplighter Jack, who has crushed on her since childhood. (He used to work as a chimney sweep with Dick Van Dyke’s Bert and would gaze up at her, ensconced in the family home; now on his ladder, Jack can move up to the space that Jane once occupied, but only for a little while.) Sometimes Jane carries signs around for SPRUCE, and at one point Jack gives her a ride on his bicycle to a demonstration and says he’ll meet her there, but we don’t see that scene. Why not? Probably because Jack is too busy hanging out with Mary Poppins. What the hell!
At another point, Jane blows off work to help Michael search for a certificate proving that they own bank shares that could help pay off the house; later on, when the paperwork has been found and the Banks family needs to race to the bank by midnight to prove their claim, it’s Jack’s affection for Jane that inspires him to round up the other leeries and have them stack their ladders up the side of Big Ben so that they can climb to the top of the tower and turn back time. (Still not as impressive as what Alex Honnold did in Free Solo, just saying.) Uh, Jack is clearly only doing this to impress Jane! When they should have just joined forces and helped lead the leeries in revolution!
But alas. My dream movie is not to be. Instead, Michael ends up keeping the house using the bank shares left by their father (cough, the unfair advantages of inherited wealth, cough). And then it turns out that Michael’s father also invested his tuppence in the bank, which has since ballooned because of “smart investments,” so Michael is also getting an additional payout, which will allow him to pursue his passion for art again—and helps him obtain a very snazzy new outfit toward the end of the film, now that he’s joined the moneyed class.
Cool, cool. WHAT ABOUT JANE? Well, Jane ends up sharing a floating balloon with Jack in one of the film’s final scenes, and that’s very nice and everything, but also, not enough. Doesn’t she get any of the money from their father’s estate? Doesn’t she, as ostensibly a representative of the workers, have any opinions on all this intergenerational wealth flying around? Haven’t she and Jack had any conversations about the poor employment conditions of the leeries, and the fact that they risked their lives helping the Banks family when Mary Poppins could have levitated up to the top of Big Ben from the very beginning? Won’t someone think of Jane and her priorities?
The only answer here is class warfare, and my imaginary favorite film of 2019, Jane and Jack Bring Down the British Banking System. Shame on Disney, our cinematic capitalist overlords with their 40% market share, for not being brave enough to give that to us!
Image sources (in order of posting): Walt Disney Media File, Walt Disney Media File, Walt Disney Media File