Saturday 28 December 2013

Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks

What a wonderful story. What a wonderful film. Don't tell me you don't have a tear welling in your eye during the final scene. It's 1961 and P. L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, travels to California to negotiate with Walt Disney for the rights to make the 1964 film. This is a fascinating story interwoven with the childhood of Travers which explains the woman's eccentric and sometimes outrageous behaviour. Tom Hanks plays Disney and Emma Thompson plays Travers and these two are absolutely superb.

There is no doubt that the film Mary Poppins is a landmark. It is a staple of every childhood. Who knew, though, that the back story to the film and the books (yes, there is more than one) would provide such a captivating and emotional story? If Travers was loathe to give up the rights to her character because "Mary is family" (she hated Disney and his films), it turns out that Mary was actually part of Travers' childhood. It would seem that creating Mary was some sort of personal catharsis for the author.

According to the movie, Disney's children loved Mary Poppins and he had promised them to make the story into a film. He apparently contacted Travers every year for twenty years before the author finally relented and signed over the rights. From my research, the books are described as darker and less fun than the film. The author's childhood as depicted in the film was traumatic. Leave it to Disney to see the fun side?

Who is Mr. Banks?
This gentleman is the father of the London family in the Mary Poppins books. Hauling out some Freudian analysis, we see that this figure represents the author's father who didn't have a stellar life and died at the age of 43. The "saving", as per the film, was Travers insisting on Mary saving the father she lost.

For further details on the life of P. L. Travers, I would recommend History Hollywood: Saving Mr. Banks. If Mrs. Travers' childhood wasn't so good, her life as an adult wasn't smooth sailing either.

Final Word
I was a little surprised. The film turned out to be much richer than I was expecting and got me thoroughly involved in the story. Making the connection between the author's unfortunate childhood and the character Mary Poppins made for a finale that kind of choked me up. I couldn't help thinking of how the things of our childhood shape us and will be what we carry around with us for the rest of our lives. Let's hope those things are good not bad.

I would recommend this film. After all, doesn't everybody like Tom Hanks? When I was a kid, everybody liked Walt Disney.


FYI: Here I was thinking Mrs. Travers cried at the premiere of the film Mary Poppins because she was having an emotional moment. It turns out that she hated the film and stipulated for the rest of her life, even in her after life via her will, that Disney should never again have any rights to her books. As I said, Travers had a tough childhood. She may not have been the nicest of adults.

Rotten Tomatoes: Saving Mr. Banks: 81%
Aggressively likable and sentimental to a fault, Saving Mr. Banks pays tribute to the Disney legacy with excellent performances and sweet, high-spirited charm.

Wikipedia: Saving Mr. Banks
Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 American-British-Australian historical comedy-drama film directed by John Lee Hancock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centered on the development of the 1964 Walt Disney Studios film Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson as author P. L. Travers and Tom Hanks as filmmaker Walt Disney, with supporting roles from Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Ruth Wilson, and Colin Farrell. Taking its title from the father in Travers' story, the film depicts the author's fortnight-long briefing in 1961 Los Angeles as she is persuaded by Disney, in his attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels.

History Hollywood: Saving Mr. Banks
* Shows photographs of each actor beside their real-life counterpart.
* Has a fascinating in-depth analysis of the film, the author P. L. Travers and her childhood and life. This article is well worth reading.

The Guardian - Dec 7/2013
What Saving Mr Banks tells us about the original Mary Poppins by Kathryn Hughes
A fan of Disney's Mary Poppins as an eight-year-old, Kathryn Hughes was given PL Travers's book. But she found it dull, odd and severely lacking in dancing penguins. As Saving Mr Banks arrives in cinemas, she re-encounters a classic story.


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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am dying to see this film. I have heard good things about it.