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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Saving Mr. Banks chronicles the pre-production phase of the Disney classic Mary Poppins where author PL Travers is attempting to thwart Walt Disney’s attempt to purchase the rights to her book in order to turn it into a film. To do this, she tries to become as difficult as possible with insane demands in a probable attempt to make Mary Poppins unfilmable. It is an joyful, fun movie that somewhat gets bogged down by a slightly unfocused script, but is uplifted by wonderful performances from its leading cast.
Everyone is talking about Tom Hanks as Walt Disney in this film. While Hanks is great, stealing the show is Emma Thompson, who is one of those great actresses who, I feel, is somewhat forgotten about and never given the proper credit she deserves. Portraying Mary Poppins creator PL Travers, she is such a miserable grit that you can’t help but be amused by her grumpy and dismissive nature. Thompson is committed to this character and because of that, you wind up liking this woman more and more with every put down she throws out there.
I have absolutely no idea how much of Saving Mr. Banks is historically true and how much is Hollywood fiction, but the film does an interesting job of exploring Travesr’s personal history as she revisits her best-loved creation. The film plays with two time periods, one during 1961 (during the production of Mary Poppins) and another during Travers’s childhood and her relationship to her father (Colin Farrell). The movie does a fairly good job is moving back and forth between the two narrative fluidly.
This backstory and how it is impacting Travers’s decisions regarding giving up the rights to her novel are interesting, but I don’t think the film fully comes together the way it needs to. There is a piece missing that I cannot quite put my finger on. Because of that, I have problems buying into Travers coming to terms with her hang-ups and misgivings.
Saving Mr. Banks is a film that comes just short of being great. Like the recently released American Hustle, while I have some issues with the script, what makes this film really work are the character presentations specifically that from Thompson (I wouldn’t be surprised if she is nominated for an Oscar). Yes, this movie is a little overly-sentimental and plays on a lot of tropes that many other films of its kind uses, but Banks uses it to its advantage and makes them work. Go check it out!