Clipper Online Editor
Saving Mr. Banks (Disney)
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Lily Bigham, Kathy Baker, Melanie Paxson, Andy McPhee, Rachel Griffiths.
Written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith.
Directed by John Lee Hancock.
It's hard to top a classic like Marry Poppins, but the Disney folks never miss a chance to recycle their best stuff. Saving Mr. Banks is the story behind Walt Disney's struggle to get Marry Poppins author P.L. Travers on board with the film, despite her objections to the “Disney-fication” of her stories.
Emma Thompson plays Travers, who was nearly destitute in the early 1960s, despite the success of her Mary Poppins book series published decades earlier. The film begins as Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) continues to pressure Travers to agree to his film adaptation, and the author reluctantly makes a voyage to southern California to oversee pre-production. Upon arrival, Travers tells Walt she still hasn't decided whether to sign over the movie rights, but agrees to meet with screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and the composer-brother team of Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman). The production team thinks Travers is “all in” and proceeds to present their version of the Mary Poppins tales, complete with songs and dialogue. Immediately, Travers objects to just about everything that made the Mary Poppins movie so popular, including songs like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
As the author's struggle with the Disney team unfolds, the movie transitions to scenes of Travers' (whose real name was Helen Lyndon Goff) youth in Austrailia. Her life was not ideal due to her father's (Colin Farrell) drinking problem and inability to hold down a job in his banking profession. The childhood scenes demonstrate how her early hardships shaped the background for the creation of Mary Poppins. One particular moment that contributes to the Poppins mystique is a visit by Travers' Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths), a stern, yet organized spinster who brings a little stability to the family at a difficult time.
Even though Travers remains obstinate over most of the Disney team's songs and characterizations for the movie, she begins to warm up to the idea, and forms a friendship with Ralph (Paul Giamatti), her limousine driver. The good feelings disappear when Travers learns of plans to include the now-famous animated “country fair” scene in the movie, and she scoots back to England. Walt Disney follows her there, and makes one last appeal to Travers, while revealing some of the hardship of his own youth.
Saving Mr. Banks is one of the best films of the year, propped up by an excellent cast. Emma Thompson delivers what is perhaps the best performance of her career, and ought to make the short list for most post-season awards. Hanks' performance is above par, but I was a little distracted by the fact that he does not look at all like Walt Disney. Paul Giamatti also deserves credit for providing some of the more tender moments of the movie.
If you are a fan of Mary Poppins (the movie) Saving Mr. Banks will melt your heart. That said, if you know how Travers really felt (even after the movie was released), you might think the Disney folks are a little self-serving. I don't think the movie a “Disney commercial,” since the film contains a few digs at the “mouse empire.” Either way, Saving Mr. Banks truly captures a beautiful process of taking one person's struggles and transforming them into a narrative that can become a beloved classic like Mary Poppins.
What to know what Jenniffer thinks of the movie? Check out her review here!