01st Dec2013

Saving Mr. Banks – Film

by timbaros

images-31Saving Mr. Banks is the story of the behind the scenes of the making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins in which Walt Disney tries to persuade the author of the book, P.L. Travers, to let him turn his book into a movie. There is also a movie within a movie that tells of Travers’ childhood and the relationship she had with her father.

 At a little over two hours, Saving Mr. Banks packs a lot of story into it. First off we have Walt Disney (a perfectly cast Tom Hanks) who flies in P.L. Travers (a very British Emma Thompson) to Los Angeles to, firstly, allow him to make her book Mary Poppins into a film (after begging her for almost 20 years), and secondly, to be there (and possibly help out) in the writing of the film, much to the dismay of the film’s songwriters – Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J Novak). The second arch of the movie is the story of P.L. Travers herself as a little girl (played by the winning Australian Annie Buckley) who, with her family, lives on a farm in Queensland, Australia, with her mom (Ruth Wilson), and father Robert (a surprisingly good Colin Farrell), and his addiction to alcohol.
Mary Poppins is the story of a man, George Banks, who, with his suffering wife, Mrs. Banks, search for a perfect nanny for their two children, who have a tendency to misbehave and run off (which no previous nanny could handle). Mary Poppins blows in (literally) to take care of the children and to set them straight. (Pamela) P.L. Travers’ father was the inspiration for George Banks.
Saving Mr. Banks is, for the most part, an enjoyable film, but there are moments that make you cringe in your seat. Thompson depicts Travers as a very snooty know-it-all woman. She is insulting (always putting down the Sherman brothers lyrics), rude (barging into Disney’s offices anytime she wants), and at one point goes back to England, leaving the production, and Walt Disney, hanging. It is up to Walt Disney to fly to London to get her formal approval for Disney to finish making Mary Poppins. She finally comes around (lucky for us). The depiction of Travers in Saving Mr. Banks is not a very good one and it really effects the likeability of this movie. In the beginning of the film, as she lands in Los Angeles, the first thing she says is that it smells like chlorine. This sets the tone for her character throughout the movie.  There is no better actor in Hollywood to play Walt Disney than Tom Hanks. Hanks has a reputation in Hollywood, and around the world, as being the nicest person in Hollywood, and he plays Disney like he could be your own father who has the keys to the biggest candy store in the world. Paul Giamatti plays Travers’ chauffeur, which Travers for most of the film doesn’t realize he exists until the very end.
On the other hand, the part of the movie where Travers is a young girl in Australia is the best part of this film. It actually seems like a different movie altogether. Told in flashbacks while Travers is in Los Angeles, we see that her childhood was a good one, but unfortunately the father that she loved so dearly was a gambler and an alcoholic who could not take care of his young family. Buckley as a young Travers is amazing, as is Ruth Wilson as Margaret, her mother. Farrell, as her father, gives the best performance in this film as an ill-tempered yet loving man who really wants to take care of his family but cannot due to his addictions. The scenes play out like a dream sequence, they are very good. And then there is a woman who comes from the sky (not literally) to help the family.
The film depicts Travers weeping with tears of joy at the premier of Mary Poppins. But in reality, she did weep, with tears of horror, stating ‘Oh God, what have they done.’ So while Saving Mr. Banks is a good film, one that may make you weep, don’t let Thompson’s very negative portrayal of Travers and the fact that this film is not entirely the true story of the making of Mary Poppins put you off. Saving Mr. Banks is a BBC/Disney co-production, so of course the Disney brand in the film is full of sugar and spice and everything nice.

One Response to “Saving Mr. Banks – Film”

  • David Ellis

    I liked the film, agree Tom Hanks was excellent but also had concerns about the portrayal of Travers. It’s hard to believe her rudeness or anti-Americanism would really have been so blatant – it felt like this might have been slightly dumbed down for the movie. Re: the premiere scene though, when asked why she was crying she said “I just can’t bear animations” – so this bit could have been accurate?

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