Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Saving Mr Banks movie review
Photo Credit: Saving Mr Banks / Walt Disney Studios
Two geniuses have very different perspectives on a story. Set in the 1960s, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) invites British author P.L. Travers to his production studio lot in Los Angeles to gain approval over the working script of her beloved childhood story, Mary Poppins - the book which would become the famous film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

At first glance, Travers is not a woman to mess with. As Disney affirms, she is a conundrum. Emma Thompson as Travers is emotionally and dutifully aware of her characters' short fuse, and how her defense mechanisms serve a curmudgeon attitude as loneliness and unhealed scars. A woman who's bark is louder than her bite, she is sternly fierce about the film and how the characters from the book will not becoming willowy magical creatures for audiences to prod fun at.

On the other hand, all Disney wants is for Travers to sign on the dotted line and let the magic take flight on screen. Hanks as Walt is the lively mogul who knows how to twist an arm or two for his imaginative endeavors, as well as the warm spirit so generously remembered by those who knew him best. Aimed at fulfilling a twenty-year promise to his two now grown-up daughters to make Mary Poppins a movie, he has his eyes set on dancing penguins, song and dance, and making a villain out of leading characters. As parents fulfilling promises and children left heartbroken by unkept promises, there is a lot at stake in the making of Mary Poppins.

Cinema is an artistic license, and with biopics, questions arise of how much of the material from a person's life should be changed, 'deleted', left as true, or made inaccurate. We as movie goers are often judge and jury of what events, timelines, or relationships should have been expanded or limited; Saving Mr. Banks was no exception.

Traver's journey to relinquishing her book rights to Disney as well as painful childhood memories is not only one of professional survival but also personal forgiveness, which makes the movie more than a one-note wonder. Debates were sparked about what was left out of Travers personal life and her quarrels with the Disney studios following the film's official release. Personally, I relinquished a lot of liberties the movie took because some of the details argued about occurred too far out of the film's filtered outlook. Though Saving Mr. Banks doesn't uphold to the absolute set-in-stone historical timeline, the movie deals adequately with capturing the background story of Mary Poppins becoming a film and the woman behind the legendary book.

As ambitious as the movie showcases Travers' stiff upper lip in the first act before weaning into the depths of her tough exterior, even her sour personality can't cast a dark cloud over the rich and colorful atmosphere of the movie. Though much of her childhood memories are exposition, shown through prolonged flashbacks, I felt the emotionality between the present day (with Travers at Disney Studios) and her past was well-executed and gorgeously shot.

The movie is not entirely without conflict, though most of it is kept at bay in the production process between Travers versus the Sherman Brothers and screenwriter Don DaGradi. The cast and script is sweet and endearing, yet manages a balance of tension that keeps the storyline engaging and emotionally rewarding. Even though I originally saw this quite some time ago, I am often emotionally reminded of the movie and want to check it out again and again because of its upbeat and tender heart.

The movie is not going to be everyone's cup of tea; some may see it as a tedious or boring, however, I felt it was an entertaining biopic that attempted to keep the gritty details at bay. Would a darker, more realistic, less Disneyized version of the film been better? One will never know. The performances by Thompson, Hanks, and the supporting cast, as well as the right balance of conflict and comedy was certainly a saving grace for a film that could've been a disaster. Saving Mr. Banks is a sentimental spoonful of sugar I can't stop scooping up.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Saving Mr. Banks? What do you think?

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