Thompson is good in a punishing role. In her first scene, she stares down the camera as if it’s a dog who might nip her heels. She keeps her neck tight, her mouth pinched and her nose aloft, as though she’s sniffing for trouble. When she clicks into the room in her sensible pumps, screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and bouncy songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) shiver. Her Travers is as unpleasant as a pine needle pillow, and she’s as far away from the actual woman as “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is from being a real word.
In reality, Travers was a feisty, stereotype-breaking bisexual — a single mom who adopted a baby in her 40s, studied Zen meditation in Kyoto, and was publishing erotica about her silky underwear 10 years before Walt had sketched his mouse. Now that’s a character worth slapping on-screen, instead of this stiff British stereotype determined to steal joy from future generations of children. With her longtime girlfriend and then-adult son erased, this frigid Travers seems like she may not even know how babies are made. Maybe Mary Poppins could sing her a song about it.