I wasn’t sure what to expect when going in to see Saving Mr. Banks but I did know that a Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson combo shouldn’t be missed! Going in and not knowing the story, the trailers had me believing this would be a light hearted tale of how Walt Disney managed to persuade P. L. Travers to hand over the rights to Mary Poppins… but actually it is quite a deep and emotional journey into Travers childhood and a heartbreaking exploration into her inspiration for the classic tale we all know.
Just to put it out there straight away, I am not a big fan of Mary Poppins. Dick Van Dyke is just awful and don’t get me started on little Michael’s ridiculous tan?! But having seen a little more insight to the source material, my appreciation for the story itself has grown. The story really isn’t about Poppins, it is about the family she helps and the father who needed a reality check in order to see what is really important in life. Something that is probably lost in translation from paper to silver screen.
What brings this film to life is the casting of Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers (author of Mary Poppins, in case that wasn’t obvious!). Thompson’s portrayal of the strong willed and abrupt Travers had me completely engaged from start to finish. It is a raw and often emotional performance with some humour in there for good measure. The exchanges between Travers and Disney are fantastic – Hanks plays a great Disney for all intent and purposes, but Thompson really steals the show throughout. Certainly couldn’t think of two better people for the roles.
Their supporting cast also bring a lot to the story. Most memorably for me Paul Giamatti as Travers chirpy driver and the Sherman brothers played by Benjamin Novak (of US Office fame) and Jason Schwartzman (great in TV series, Bored to Death). Colin Farrell however as Travers father I was less impressed with. His borderline accent pulls you out of the submersion of the story from time to time and I felt they could have used an English actor quite easily who would have given an equally great performance. Minor detail though, as it didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the film too badly at the time.
I found myself completely engrossed in Travers story. The back and forth between present and past flash backs of her life I thought were well timed and flowed very naturally. I would liked to have seen more about how she grew up and her life at the time of writing Mary Poppins, but I can see that it wouldn’t have been appropriate in this film. I was pleased to see that writers Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith didn’t sugar coat the story and claim that Travers was totally convinced by Disney’s re-imagining of her beloved Mary Poppins. ***Mild Spoiler Alert*** Three scenes in particular stick in my mind, the first time Travers cracks a smile on the merry-go-round (definite lump in thoat!), when she hears ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ for the first time (shed a little tear here), and finally when we see Travers reaction to the film at the premier (full on blubbering mess). ***End of Mild Spoiler Alert***
Over all I think the story was well written, well told and fantastically acted. I was hooked on Travers and her struggle in seeing eye to eye with Disney, as well as her troubled childhood. My POV, Thompson and Hanks performances are worth seeing, and the story will most likely move you. Cinema viewing isn’t essential – any screen will do. Put it on your ‘ones to watch’ list for sure.