Saving Mr. Banks (Movie Review)

Posted: January 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image

Saving Mr. Banks is amazing. I know that, as a reviewer, I should first summarize the whole thing for you, and then tell you my thoughts on it in a detailed and intelligent way. But, there’s just no denying that – for me – this movie is awesome. 

So, now that we have that out of the way, I’ll summarize the movie for you. Saving Mr. Banks is a behind-the-scenes biopic of how Mary Poppins was made. P.L. Travers (the great Emma Thompson), the author of the Mary Poppins books, received offers for the movie rights of her beloved books for twenty consecutive years until she was finally convinced by her agent to give Walt Disney (the brilliant Tom Hanks) a chance. That’s the basic plot of the movie, and with those two actors working together, it was already a guarantee for me that it’d be a great experience.

However, one of the biggest surprises was Colin Farrell’s performance as Travers Goff, P.L. Travers’ father. Her childhood is told in a series of flashbacks, normally starting when P.L. Travers is annoyed by a section of the script, and the flashback then shows why she’s annoyed with it. It’s pretty interesting, and it’s easier than some voiceover narration or a lengthy conversation where Emma Thompson is forced to explain every one of her choices. The rule, “Show, don’t tell,” was clearly taken to heart by the writers and director.

Back to Colin Farrell. I thought he was great in In Bruges, but it wasn’t one of those mind-blowing performances that you tell your friends about for months until they forcibly stop you from telling them any more. His performance in Saving Mr. Banks, however, is one of those performances. He plays an alcoholic that dotes on his daughters very much, but seems to be unable to escape the urge to drink. The character is both haunted and happy, angry and contemplative. 

There’s a great scene in the movie where his children are chasing a hen, and he tells them, jokingly, that it’s no hen. It’s their evil Aunt! Later, when he’s about to go to bed with his wife (Ruth Wilson, Luther), it’s revealed that she’s been pleading for him to let her ask her sister for help. There are a few more surprises in the movie, but I won’t spoil them for you.

Back to the present. (Or the 1960’s.) The first scene where Walt Disney appears in the movie is a favorite of mine. The scriptwriter, Don, tells Travers it’s not a good idea to call him Mr. Disney. He likes to be called Walt. Disney then rushes out of his office, and in the background, you can see an entire shelf of oscars, polished as can be. They go out of focus, and you see Tom Hanks’ best smile. 

Image

I think it was then that Travers decided to do her best to make his life miserable. She calls him Mr. Disney, and continues to do so even though he keeps insisting he call her by his first name. In a masterful scene, Travers lists her demands, and you can see the look on Hanks’ face as she insults his life’s work. Tom Hanks version of Mr. Disney is very interesting. Unlike a lot of actors, he never overdoes it. When he becomes angry near the middle of the movie, you know it. But he doesn’t fly off the handle. After all, you don’t get your own theme park if you throw a temper tantrum every time someone is being unreasonable. 

Emma Thompson, however, has the most difficult role of all. She has to play a difficult, cold… hag. There’s really no other way to put it. I mean, even Emma Thompson admitted that Travers was a bit of a hag in an interview on Graham Norton. But, despite that, she manages to put a lot of heart into the performance. This is a woman that’s seen things, as a child, that she never should have seen.

Image

As such, she spends her life writing books for children so they won’t have to see the horrible things around them. She uses the joy and wonder that she still possesses in her heart on her books, while putting on a facade of detachment and bitterness when interacting with other people. There’s a wonderful scene in the movie where she starts letting her guard down around her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti). 

When she first met him, she made it very clear that she did not want to be there. When they see some beautiful scenery on the way to Walt Disney studios, Ralph cheerfully says: “Isn’t it beautiful?”

“If you like that sort of thing,” she replies promptly.

“Well, I do,” he says slightly crestfallen.

But he ends up her only friend, anyhow. I can talk for much longer about this movie, but to do so would mean telling you about some really interesting scenes and I want you to discover those scenes for yourself. The score is beautiful, and the main song is both happy and somber, just like Disney and Travers.

Image

 

~J.A. Romano

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s