SAVING MR BANKS
DIRECTOR: John Lee Hancock
CAST: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Annie Rose Buckley
CLASSIFICATION: 7-9 PG
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes
SENTIMENTAL in the best sense of the word, Saving Mr Banks is an enchanting glimpse into the Disney way.
This is the origins story of how Mary Poppins the movie came to be, but more than that, it gives us a taste of the Disney magic – their upbeat sentimentality, the sense of delight and thrill we get from a good story, the magic engendered by… let’s put it the way Walt Disney (Hanks) does in the film: “We restore order with imagination. We instil hope again and again and again.”
The film production side of the Walt Disney Company isn’t about persuading you that dragons are real, they are about persuading you that the dragon can be beaten by the good guy, no matter the odds.
Yes, it is carefully calculated and crafted, but that does not make it any less amazing when they get it right.
Much as Walt Disney in this film comes to the realisation that the book Mary Poppins is not about the nanny saving the children but redeeming the father, this film is not so much about the author and her book as it is about the woman and her relationship with father.
It is also about the perils of trying to turn a book into a film.
If you really did your research about the intensely private writer you would find that this film character apparently excises large chunks of the original person’s personality and history. This is not an accurate biography, but a portrait of two people whose life’s work had a huge influence on what we associate with the Disney brand.
Thompson’s portrayal of author PL Travers is at the heart of the film, keeping it from descending into saccharine twee with her bah humbug attitude which has its roots in loss. She creates a poignant picture of a lonely, principled, insecure old woman who needs the money, but does not want her nanny cavorting and twinkling towards a happy ending like a kamikaze.
The stiff upper lip old English- woman (who is actually Australian) butts heads with the laid-back though tough Walt Disney. Hanks plays him like an extension of the person audiences got to know through his television show – avuncular, smart, your favourite uncle with business smarts.
Disney sets the crotchety woman loose on his best production team which includes Bradley Whitford as the long-suffering though determined artist/writer Don daGradi, Paul Giamatti is delightful as the chauffeur who introduces a delicate sub-plot and Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak as the Sherman brothers who need to get supercalifragilistic-expialidocious into the film without Travers finding out.
Through them you see the joyful side of working on a Disney film in their golden age and as they all try their best to bring her to the light side of life, the author finds herself reflecting on her childhood.
The coolest thing about the film? It’ll make you watch Mary Poppins with a new appreciation for the story. And there-in lies the magic.
If you liked Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee you will like this.