Friday, January 10, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks Review

The Disney company has a way with magic. It's something every child at some point in their life knows, especially when it comes to the classic Walt era of the Mouse House. But no piece speaks to the levels of his visual creativity and abilities more than the Oscar winning Mary Poppins. Though by far not my personal favorite Disney film, Poppins is a masterpiece in so many ways and will always be treasured as such.

But what exactly was the inspiration behind the famous flying nanny? Not too many people seem to know and always believe that she came from within Walt's own imagination. But in actuality, Mary was born from the mind of an Australian woman that many would come to know as P.L.Travers. She was a mysterious creature, much like Poppins, who came in and out of the public eye as quick as the wind. But what many know her for, beside her books of course, is the history between her and Walt. Saving Mr. Banks, the new film from Disney, gives cinematic life to these behind the scenes moments.

We begin in the past, with a familiar phrase from the original story, where we see a young girl and her father (played brilliantly by Collin Farrel) interact. We later learn this is Travers (who's real name was Ellen) during her not so "Perfectly Perfect" childhood. At the same time we meet a now middle aged Travers, who has been requested to meet Walt Disney for two weeks in California. This meeting would hopefully bring Mary Poppins to the big screen (a deal that had been a twenty year long struggle for Walt and company.)

The moments that occurred during those two weeks were some of the most interesting in Disney's history. With an unforgettable performance by Emma Thompson as Travers, you remember every single aspect of them, even down to what condition her perfectly permed hair was in. Thompson gives the kind of performance that people showcase in Oscar montages, make speeches about (like Meryl Streep did here), and quote for years to come. She's thrilling in every detail, and brings heart to a character that the public assumed had no soul outside of what came from her finger tips onto the page.

Walt is played by the always enchanting Tom Hanks, who though looks really nothing close to Mr. Disney, brings a similar sort of charming aura that can be instantly connected to his real life counterpart.  This goes very much along with those in the supporting roles, especially Paul Giamatti as Ralph (P.L's driver), who gives the oil to revive Thompson's inner Tin Man.

But what must be noted above all other aspects of this film are the elegant choices that make this a love letter to childhood nostalgia. From the recreation of the original Disney Studios title card, to the replication of the linoleum hallways of the Burbank office, this is pure Disney fanatic heaven. The moment that presents this effort at it's best comes when Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman) plays "Feed The Birds" in the rehearsal room. Many a knowledgeable "DVD extras watching" Mouseketeer can tell you that this was (by many accounts) Walt's favorite song, and the moment perfectly expresses this. 

Though as with any Hollywood film, the level of truthfulness can be lacking, especially when you know some of the "source material". By most accounts it's been said that Travers was not a fan of the final product put on screen of her beloved Mary. So when the final act of the film is shown, it can be hard to swallow these fantasy renderings of history, even with a spoonful of sugar. 

But when all is said and done, Saving Mr. Banks is a great movie. Though that is a generic term for a review, that's really the best way to describe it. These are the kind of cinema experiences an audience craves for: A great story that involves all your emotions, steers up your own personal connections, and leaves you feeling inspired in some degree, even to "Fly A Kite" perhaps.

9.6 out of 10


Andrea Nicole Baker said...
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Andrea Nicole Baker said...

I went to the movie expecting a light hearted back story. At least that was what the previews had me expecting. What we got was a heart felt story of a woman dealing with her challenging past. I did read somewhere, that after the premier, Mrs Travers said to Walt that she had some ideas to improve the movie. Walt responded simply (something like) "It's over" and moved on. I loved the movie. It brought back lots of warm memories and personal connections. BTW - Emma Thompson definitely delivered an Oscar worthy performance.



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