Why Saving Mr Banks is Awesome

Saving Mr Banks is a fresh look behind the scenes of a beloved Hollywood Classic

Last week I was lucky enough to get an exclusive viewing of Saving Mr Banks, which will not be released officially until the end of the month. It was always going to be a film closely viewed by the critics; portraying the likes of Walt Disney and based around one of the most popular films in history is not an easy task. Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, is finally persuaded to come to America by Tom Hanks' Disney and give script approval - something that he never did for anyone before or after.

Thompson becomes Mrs Travers so completely; she is hidden by this lonely blunt woman. “I’d rather be accountable for the rain” she says, determined it seems, to be miserable. She is a unique character; she wrote a book so beloved by children all over the world, and is in Disneyland with Walt Disney himself, yet she is rude and bitter and only agreed to visit Disney after so long refusing him because she had no money and was at risk of losing her house in England.  She is portrayed as a solitary character, stereotypically English with her prim and proper air and requesting tea everywhere she goes, but not permitting closeness between herself and others, even those on a first name basis. It is a superb performance from the beginning and makes the audience desperate to find out what has made her this way.

Hanks, it seems, has a more challenging time - though it is hard to think of anyone else better to play Disney – as he is so popular and so much his own caricature that it is often difficult to see anything other than Tom Hanks. It is not to say Hanks isn’t great in the role; his Disney is enthusiastic, energetic and lights up the room with his presence, and he also mastered the slight Missouri accent that Disney had. Hanks has supposedly been interested in Walt Disney for many years and his take on him is down to earth and as believable and realistic as you can imagine from a man with an image so well known to the public

Thompson’s face says it all; Travers was altogether not impressed

I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of this film. The title of the movie is confusing, and it is not until its completion that you understand the choice behind it. On the surface, this film is as bright as the sunny Florida weather reflected on screen, but underneath there is a whole other story unfolding. The plot switches from scenes in 1960’s America and England that are usually, despite Travers attitude, displayed with positivity and plenty of humour, to a young Travers and her past in Australia. It is here were the story really gets interesting. Both points in time link together to explain why Travers has become the woman she is today, and why Mary Poppins was much closer to her than just an ordinary author’s work. 

Colin Farrell in a surprisingly excellent performance as Travers father

Colin Farrell is magnificent as Travers father, a banker in Australia who is worshipped by his daughters - especially Travers, with whom he shared a very special bond - but in daily life is struggling to make ends meet and live a life worth living. He puts on a façade in front of his family, the loving father with no cares in the world, but it is clear from the get go that all is not quite right.

It becomes instantly clear that Travers father was very important to her, through the flashbacks and certain things she says and feels during her adult life we discover that her whole life is dictated by her father and her past; all her issues stem from these events. It is refreshing to have a film with as much humour yet as moving as this. There are moments of hilarity followed closely by sadness or sympathy. It makes for a very pleasurable viewing.

B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman had a lot to deal with as Robert and Richard Sherman 

One of the most successful areas of the film are the scenes in the rehearsal room. Mrs Travers goes through the script with the Sherman brothers - here played superbly by B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman - and script writer Don DaGradi, played by Bradley Whitford. Travers is so harsh with these poor men that we find her funny, despite her character having an ounce of humour in her. She surprises the Americans, whose friendly, positive air is soon dampened by her spirit; she appears to have a negative effect on everybody she meets.

It is the smaller roles in this film that really make it stand out, and they are all given their moment that adds that extra touch to the movie. There is a great relationship between Travers and her driver, played charmingly by Paul Giamatti. The interactions she has with the script developers especially are so funny because we know the outcome, as there are probably only a handful of people who have never seen Mary Poppins at least once in their life (If you know one, sit them down immediately to watch it, and then take them out to the cinema next week to see this charismatic movie).

There are many small, interesting facts about Disney and his creations that add a special something to the film. My only issue would be how true are some of the scenarios? Did they really happen like that or have they been added to link plot elements together? Either way, I'd be surprised if you cannot enjoy this film; Hanks and Thompson bounce off each other and have great chemistry throughout. Disney at one point says to Travers “Life disappoints you Mrs Travers”; that may have been true but there is no doubt you won’t be disappointed by this film.

Saving Mr Banks is released on 29th November.

This has been Mary for The Awesome Update.

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