Disney’s own retelling of one of Disney’s own retellings, Saving Mr. Banks is a light and charming film that is full of character and the occasional emotional moment. On the surface the film tells the story of the tense collaboration between Walt Disney and his team and P. L. Travers, the author and creator of Mary Poppins, but at its heart the film is more concerned with our attachments to our childhoods and the ways in which we struggle to let go. The film combines dazzling performances with a nostalgic look at of one of Disney’s greatest cinematic feats. Saving Mr. Banks is by no means a perfect film but a delightful and bittersweet one. Emma Thompson, one of Britain’s most precious and consistently great actresses, gives an outstanding performance as the controlling, and ever so rude, author. Financial needs cause her to have to consider selling the rights of Mary Poppins (never just Mary) to the American studios. Her inner battle with herself and the exterior battle with the film’s creative team gel together to create scenes of both immense anguish and joyous comedy. Mary Poppins is one of my favourite films. Despite how much the original author hated it, an abundance of children and adults have discovered it and loved it dearly for almost fifty years. Saving Mr. Banks tells the story from the perspective of both Disney and Travers, making the film beautifully collaborative.
The story drifts from scenes in the studio rehearsal rooms to the recreations of Travers’ childhood in Australia. Although these flashback scenes have a considerably weaker script than the rest of the film they do not detract from the overall charisma of Saving Mr. Banks. There was perhaps one too many bloody coughs into a handkerchief for my liking, but it was fine. These flashbacks aren’t as moving as it should have been and occasionally I did find myself wanting the film to return to Travers sighing over the possibility of animated penguins. There is an enjoyment that comes from knowing, ahead of the characters, what Mary Poppins finally ended up looking like. The relationship between Disney and Travers develops and becomes more complex as the film continues. Certain elements of the film are slightly sugar coated but for the most part Saving Mr. Banks does not shy away from the flaws of the relationships and the real people whose story it is telling. Tom Hanks is wonderful as Disney. Together with Thompson he holds up the film but the likes of Paul Giamatti, who is always a pleasure on screen, and Colin Farrell are also wonderful. I smiled from the start to the finish of Saving Mr. Banks. It is a joyful depiction of an ugly collaboration that produced a beautiful end product.
It is often difficult to adapt a true story to the silver screen, especially a story such as this where there is a mixture of opinions and points of views present. Saving Mr. Banks takes elements of a real event and creates a film so charming and warm that it doesn’t matter how exact it is because you’ll find yourself beaming from ear to ear throughout.
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