‘Saving Mr. Banks’ Review – A Spoonful of Mary Poppins
Disney’s new film, Saving Mr. Banks will probably make you see Mary Poppins differently as it tells the story of how the movie came to be, and let me tell you, it’s was not as easy road.
Mary Poppins was written by P.L. Travers and the film tells the true event of what it took for Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, to bring the story to screen. Disney had made a promise to his daughters that he would make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” and as he soon explains to Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) when he meets her, he never breaks his promise. Unfortunately what he didn’t realize was that this specific promise would take him 20 years to keep. The movie focuses on two weeks in 1961 as Disney finally meets face to face with the author and pulls all the stops to obtain the rights to the book. Unfortunately, P.L. Travers is not an easy woman to convince, she absolutely hates Disney movies and has no intention of letting her precious book be turned into another musical.
So how did Disney finally convince her? Well you’ll have to go see the movie to find out.
The biggest draw to the film is of course its impressive cast. Hanks and Thompson are wonderful on screen together and it’s too bad that Colin Farrell doesn’t have any scenes with the two of them (he plays P.L. Travers’ father in flashbacks scenes). The opposition of their characters in term of personality makes for a really interesting dynamic to watch.
The supporting cast is also as impressive with the likes of Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Rachel Griffiths and Kathy Baker sharing the screen with them throughout the film.
But if I’m being honest the best part of the film for me was the connection to Mary Poppins. For fans of the film there is plenty to smile and be excited about. For example, watching the Sherman brothers (Novak and Schwartzman) and DaGradi (Whitford) present songs you know will become iconic, for the first time, there is something really thrilling about it. As if you’ve travelled back to the past and have an insight into the future they do not yet know.
And by the end I almost wished they would have played the entire Mary Poppins movie. A movie within a movie, how brilliant would that have been?!
As for the story itself, it seems crazy that what became such an iconic film almost didn’t make it. And that’s what makes the film also fun to watch. Even though you know the movie eventually gets made, you can’t figure out how Disney will ever be able to convince Travers.
However, while I did enjoy the movie overall, Travers’ unlikeability was a little too much for me at times. I couldn’t find anything redeeming about her and it was hard to watch a film for which you do not care about the character that much. Her unpleasant personality is somewhat explained through flashbacks, but that unfortunately wasn’t enough for me to forgive the character.
And speaking of flashbacks, some of it does feel a bit long. I wish they had spent more time exploring the character Mary Poppins is based on, Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths), instead of Travers’ father.
However, the truth is that P.L. Travers was an unlikeable person, and if anything the movie is staying true to the character and in that sense I applaud it. Emma Thompson’s performance is absolutely brilliant and she’s the reason that even though the character is detestable, you still find joy in watching her. She has a beautiful scene at the end of the film which brought me to tears, so bring your tissues!
Finally, make sure to stay during the end credits if you want to hear a recording of the real P.L. Travers from moments shown in the film.
Overall, if you’re a fan of Mary Poppins and want to find out how the film came to be and/or if you want to see Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson face off, make sure to go see Saving Mr. Banks.
Saving Mr. Banks is out in limited theaters today and will open wide on December 20th. You can watch the trailer for the film below and you find out more about the film from Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell interviews here.