One would think that a movie about the making of Mary Poppins would be one filled with glee, merriment and joy, much like the classic film; but those who think that will come to be surprised by what took place over two weeks in 1964, when the author of Mary Poppins came to visit Walt Disney.
In Saving Mr. Banks, we are introduced to the bitter, lonely and protective P.L. Travers, played marvelously by Emma Thompson, as she is, rather begrudgingly, getting ready to fly to America to meet with Walt Disney about signing over the rights of her beloved Mary Poppins, something she thinks she will never do. Her fish-out-of-water attitude is humorous at first; her first looks and bitterness about her surroundings of 1960 LA are a far-cry from her home in England. Things get worse when she arrives at Disney Studios and finds that her work is absolutely nothing like she had imagined it would be. Emma Thompson gives a heartbreaking portrayal of a woman who is coming to terms with her past; the books she wrote weren’t just from pure imagination, they have real life inspirations, and we come to see these inspirations through flashbacks of her as a kid living in Australia in the early 20th century. In these flashbacks one performance stands out; Colin Farrell, who plays Travers father, is a man who is so boisterous and charming, who creates imagination in his children, and would do anything to make sure they are happy. His performance is so good that I cannot believe he wasn’t nominated. It is certainly one of his best roles.
P.L. Travers cold and bitter attitude is then offset by the charismatic and eccentric Walt Disney, played perfectly by Tom Hanks. He steals all of the scenes he is in with his sincere and lovable performance of a man who also would do anything for his children. He had been trying for 20 years to get the rights to make the film, just because he promised his daughters he would. Yet, Hank’s presence is never overbearing, he is never always there, and that is a good thing. I fear that with too much scene-stealing from him, the story would have detracted too much from what was really the point of the movie.
The movie interestingly enough, if looked at it in one way, seems not just of the meeting of these two characters, but more of a biopic of Travers. Whatever scene Hanks is not in, we are seeing the portrayal of a woman who simply loves her work, who had a vision when she wrote it and does not want anything to tarnish it.
These two great main performances are backed up by a wonderful supporting cast featuring the like of Paul Giamatti as the personal driver of Travers to and from the studio. His performance is so simple and understated but, at times, feels rather powerful, even though he is not in it nearly as long as some of the others. B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman play the Sherman brothers, the minds behind all of the songs in the classic, and they offer the comedy in the film, with their jolly and lovable enactments of the songs that would soon become legends.
But the movie holds a deeper message, one that really resonates about the state of Hollywood today. When we are bombarded left and right by sequels and prequels, spin-offs and rip-offs, and reboots and reimagining’s, we have lost the sense of true imagination; a movie that is so original that it stirs something deep down that we can’t do anything to contain our imaginations as to the possibilities of the world. We have become so inundated with these types of films, that the movies of old are slowly becoming a forgotten treasure, buried under the weight of countless unimaginative movies. The movie reminds us of a man who wanted nothing but to inspire, to bring happiness and joy to everyone around the world, a man who wouldn’t throw millions around in order to get his way, a man who wanted something new and original, something revolutionary. It reminds us that there are no longer men like Walt Disney, that Hollywood has become too populated with money-makers rather than dream-makers.
This movie is a love-letter to a time that is becoming too much of a distant past.
So I think this movie should be seen by all. Not just for the performances, not just for how beautiful and moving it is, but for what it has to say about the current era of film-making, where money comes before dreams, when it should really be the other way around.
- Movie Review: Thompson and Hanks seem Oscar bound in the sublime “Saving Mr. Banks” (rogersmovienation.com)
- Saving Mr Banks (2013) (liamdoesfilm.wordpress.com)
- ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ Is Gently Sweetened (hraygurl.wordpress.com)