Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley
Director: John Lee Hancock
Screenplay: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
Biography/Comedy/Drama, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 125 minutes
Release Date: December 20, 2013
Well Scott, it’s time to review Saving Mr. Banks.
BBC Films is really banking on this movie to succeed, Greg. Let’s recap.
This is a story told as two timelines alternating back and forth. In the past we meet little Ginty Goff (Annie Rose Buckley) who is about 8 years old and lives in the backwater of Australia. Her dad is Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) and is a bank manager who has trouble keeping a job because of his drinking.
In the present, which is 1961, we meet Mrs. P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson), author of the famous Mary Poppins series of books. Mrs. Travers is in a spot of financial trouble, but she is being courted by none other than Walt Disney himself (Tom Hanks), who wants to buy the rights to make a Mary Poppins movie. Mrs. Travers, however, is very, very picky about how such a movie is to be made. Much of Saving Mr. Banks centers on the conflict between Mrs. Travers and the DIsney movie-making staff.
The movie alternates between the two time periods. We watch as Mr. Goff falls deeper and deeper into alcoholism while Ginty (the young P. L. Travers) tries to understand. Goff is a dreamer and treats his two daughters like princesses. Little Ginty adores her daddy and wants to be just like him, letting her imagination run wild and making up fantastic stories.
Greg, Saving Mr. Banks is a thoroughly enjoyable look at the backstory of one of the great musicals in film history. I must confess to being completely ignorant of P. L. Travers, her childhood, or her inner demons that gave rise to the amazing character of Mary Poppins. I was also totally unaware of her issues with Walt Disney and her resistance to his attempt to wrest the rights from Travers to create the classic Mary Poppins movie. So the telling of this backstory, in the form of Saving Mr. Banks, is all quite fascinating.
It also dealt honestly with the legendary Walt Disney. Banks showed Disney as a strong willed businessman. It showed how he could be manipulative and even showed him smoking. Considering that this was a Disney film, I was pleased with the candid look behind the scenes of the Walt Disney machine.
Me, too, Greg. Although Disney is portrayed as a less than perfect person, he is shown to be instrumental in assisting Mrs. Travers along her hero’s journey. In fact, Walt Disney plays the role of Mrs. Travers’ mentor. One could say that Disney slowly becomes the amateur psychologist who helps Mrs. Travers unravel the emotional issues she faces while resisting so many of the Disney staff’s suggestions for bringing the character of Mary Poppins to life. Just as Mr. Banks is the one who needs saving in the movie Mary Poppins, we learn that Mrs. Travers needs saving in this film.
And speaking of the Disney staff, they are a terrific ensemble of talented actors who truly made me believe they were the creative inspiration behind the magic of Mary Poppins. Their persistence in the face of adversity was somewhat heroic itself. Paul Giamatti deserves kudos for the role he plays in quietly earning the respect and confidence of Mrs. Travers. The entire cast in Saving Mr. Banks deserves great credit here.
The final scene touched me deeply. Disney opens up to Travers and makes a final plea to gain the rights to the film. This scene reveals as much about Disney’s past as it does Travers’. Both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson deliver wonderful performances. I was completely drawn in. I felt we were witness to a great hero’s journey coming to fruition. Disney helps Travers transform. For a wonderful telling of a true tale of creation I give Saving Mr. Banks 4 out of 5 Reels. And for a great hero’s journey for Mrs. Travers 4 out of 5 Heroes.
Greg, it looks like December of 2013 is shaping up to be one of the greatest months in movie history. Saving Mr. Banks is a terrific film that is almost as entertaining to watch as Mary Poppins itself. Tom Hanks once again proves why he may be the greatest male actor of our age, and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Travers also turns in an Oscar-worthy performance. I thoroughly enjoyed this gem of a movie and am happy to also award it 4 Reels out of 5.
The hero journey is very effective although sometimes it is uncomfortable to watch. Mrs. Travers is obviously a woman who is in pain and hiding a dark secret, but there is one pivotal moment in the movie when she becomes transformed — it occurs when she hears the rehearsal for one particular song in the movie. This song triggers memories of her father as a good man, and more than coincidentally, it also marks the transformative “saving” of Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins. Like you, Greg, I also award Travers a very impressive 4 Heroes out of 5.