Friday, October 27, 2017

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Based on the true story of writer A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his creation Winnie-the-Pooh, Goodbye Christopher Robin is more than it initially might seem. Much like Milne himself, returned from war with PTSD and struggling with getting back to work as a writer, the script by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan struggles before getting the man and his family into the setting which would eventually help create one of the world's most-beloved fictional characters.

The rest of the household consists of Milne's wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) who is more concerned with prestige, fame, and money than her husband, their young son Christopher (Will Tilston) whose interactions with his stuffed animals will lead to the inspiration behind Milne's most-popular work, and his nanny (Kelly Macdonald). The film turns out to be as much about the young boy as his father and how the growing fame slowly destroyed the relationship which the creation of Pooh helped create between father and son. For a film about Winnie-the-Pooh, it's more melancholy than I expected, but it also proves to have some unexpected depth.

There are certainly some nagging issues with the script. The flighty nature of the family allows the screenwriters to gloss over quite a bit including the extended absence of Mrs. Milne which happens but is never really dealt with, the parents' complete disconnect to the effect of Pooh's popularity is having on their son, and a handful of emotional beats which are a bit too one-the-nose for a film that takes some pride in being somewhat unexpected. The film also has trouble keeping track of time as adventures in the family's woodland home, and several montages and fast-forwards, make it hard to pinpoint, at times, just how much time has past. In order to round out the story, the script also calls for a fast-forward (handled fairly well in a montage) which is far from my favorite Hollywood contrivance.

Goodbye Christopher Robin isn't a great film, but it does offer more than expected. While showcasing the inspiration around Pooh and his fictional friends, the movie is far more concerned with both the positive and negative effects of such a creation. Considering Hollywood's distaste and distrust for the paparazzi , it's hard to not view the film, at least partially, as a morality tale. In that vein, as well as showcasing the crucible which created Winnie-the-Pooh, Goodbye Christopher Robin exceeded my expectations. Director Simon Curtis gets a terrific performance out of his young star and the rest of the cast is so strong that Robbie isn't missed, and is nearly forgotten, during her character's extended absence.

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