Saving Mr. Banks: Where Her Book Ended, Their Story Began (2013)

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Biography, Comedy, Drama
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saving_mr_banksHaving been pursued by Walt Disney for 20 years for the rights to create a Mary Poppins movie, Pamela Travers finally agrees to travel out to Los Angeles to meet with the creative team at Disney to determine whether she will sign over her creation. Upon her arrival, she is greeted by intense kindness and informality, both of which are troubling to her proper presence. While she agrees to listen to the creative team and read through the script, Pamela withholds her final decision until she feels comfortable with the product. Walt and his staff continue to get more and more frustrated with her resistance to their ideas, but Pamela’s memories continue to stir up throughout the creative process. As she continues to battle with her vision of Mary Poppins and the connection with her childhood, the question remains whether she can work with Walt’s team to finally bring her story to the big screen.

Starring: Emma Thompson (P. L. Travers), Tom Hanks (Walt Disney), Annie Rose Buckley (Ginty), Colin Farrell (Travers Goff), Ruth Wilson (Margaret Goff), Paul Giamatti (Ralph), Bradley Whitford (Don DaGradi), BJ Novak (Robert Sherman), Jason Schwartzman (Richard Sherman), Lily Bigham (Biddy), Kathy Baker (Tommie), Melanie Paxson (Dolly)

Thompson shines in this role as the stern but complicated Travers. While there is some speculation that she played the role a bit colder than the real Travers, audio recordings of the meetings at Disney confirm the comparison between the real Travers and Thompson’s performance. Hanks brings a warmth to his role as Disney, making him quite the lovable character. Buckley, Farrell, and Wilson have a great rapport to bring together Travers’s past and weave it into the story of the making of Mary Poppins. Just as impressive was the combination of Giamatti, Whitford, Novak, and Schwartzman.

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John Lee Hancock took the story of PL Travers and her creation of Mary Poppins and intricately wove in her backstory that influenced the characters of her book. As a child, her family struggled due to her father’s challenges with keeping a job and battling an alcohol addiction. While he had his own troubles, he devoted all of his positive energy toward making her life as fun and imaginative as possible. When reality finally caught up to him, it soured her childhood, leaving her conform more toward the personality of her aunt, who was strict, focused, and proper. These ended up being the characters that inspired her creative of Mary Poppins and the Banks family. This was a story that Walt Disney struggled to understand until he finally got a chance to listen more to Pamela’s experience.

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As for the creation of the film, the battle between Mrs. Travers and Walt’s creative team was a great battle to watch. She entered the experience with a closed mind, looking to protect the image of Mary Poppins and unwilling to move forward from her past. Meanwhile, Walt intended for the film to be more of a musical with animation sprinkled into the story. This was far from what Pamela was willing to allow. Slowly throughout the two weeks, she began to approve little elements of the story and eventually got comfortable with the music. Since the story was paralleled by her past, parts of the characters started to bring her joy, while others incited sorrow and frustration. The cast brought great energy to the creative scenes, culminating with a dance number with Let’s Go Fly a Kite and frustration over the inclusion of animation.

The film is a bit of unexpected magic, even as a holiday Disney release. Between the great acting and the moving story, this is a definite must-see.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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