Saving Mr Banks (2013)
It’s been a long and fascinating wait to watch Saving Mr Banks (2013) that depicted the fight Walk Disney had to have the rights from P.L. Travers in order to make Mary Poppins (1964) it seems like it never happened when we see the family classic time and time again which never fails to lift the spirit.
This isn’t Mary Poppins as we know her, the books and the author Travers is mile away from the nanny we all love. Instead we find Travers (Emma Thompson) in need of money, her royalties have dried up, her only source of money is a deal for the film rights to the books. Something that Disney (Tom Hanks) has been fighting for twenty years, not wanting to break a promise to his daughter. Travers is a stubborn woman with a cold exterior who is not willing to hand her creation over to the house of mouse.
Needs must and after 20 years she gives in to look over the script that is in development, begrudgingly she flies to L.A. where she enters Uncle Walt’s world, a world that has never been defeated, always winning and getting their way. A one woman fight against all the ideas for the film is waged against the Sherman Brothers (Jason Schwartzman (Richard) and B.J. Novak (Robert)) and script writer Don Dagradi (Bradley Whitford). Yet it is Disney himself who bears the brunt of her resistance to his southern charm and ideas to bring the nanny to the screen.
All this is explained in short scenes that takes us back to Travers’ s childhood focuses on her father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) who forms the basis for Mr banks that appears in the Poppins books and film. Moving his family half way across Australia to work at another bank, a man who adores his young daughter Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley). Plagued by his alcohol addiction which becomes clearer with each passing fleating scene that shows a little more each time. I feel these should have been longer, knowing that her past inform the books and the woman, and indeed Poppins that we know and love.
We then see from the awakenings of these memories the effect on the author, induced by the Sherman Brothers music which as irritating it was for her, she softens on hearing Feed the Birds and Fly a Kite. For the audience each song brings back nothing but happy memories of the classic film making you all warm and fuzzy inside.
Disney’s own efforts at first to understand the woman who will not agree or compromise is not helped by a trip to Disneyland an opportunity for the film-makers and studio to take advantage of the theme park, dressing it up for the early sixties. Disney (Hanks) only really begins to understand the only woman to ever stop him when time is drawing to a close, one artist to another, as he opens up about his past he seals the deal. And the rest as we all know is history.
For the Disney Company they pulled out all the stops, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the classic film, every detail of the look of the film is taken care of, thanks in most part to the incredible archive they have, allowing for John Lee Hancock to recreate as much as possible the world of the early 1960’s. Even the première which I wasn’t expecting which was recreated in fantastic style, from the archives. History was being recreated. A chance also for a new audience to see a classic, (only a few clips) on the bog screen. Maybe that’s going to far for them, also showing a love and devotion to the film. Both Thompson and Hanks are on top form here, creating many comical moments, all courtesy of a dry witted Travers whilst Hanks really takes on the role of an American icon.
There has been criticism about sugar-coating the facts of the film, as I discovered in a Culture Show special which made me aware of a darker side to the author. The film touches on these facts lightly, Disney will never delve into areas such as her adopted son and suspected lesbian partner of 10 years. They still paint a woman who holds her characters and what they really mean to her as she comes to terms with her relationship with her father which is what the film is really about, forgiving and letting go. This is where Banks is most effective, with all the trappings to create the era and the look, with all it’s heart a resolution is made whilst pushing all the right buttons at the same time.
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