Saving Mr. Banks is a tear jerker dealing with one man’s promise to his daughters and one woman’s grief over her father.
Review (with Spoilers)
Being someone who has liked Emma Thompson since seeing Wit and Love Actually, I found it hard to not look forward to the film. And then when you add Tom Hanks and the story of the making of Mary Poppins, it is hard not to get excited. But, the best part though is, unlike last year’s Hitchcock, as much as you get a story about the creator, there is a proper focus on the making of the film. Well, rather the writing part of it.
Characters & Story
The story focuses on Pamela Travers (played by Emma Thompson), the writer of Mary Poppins, the book. She has the personality of an English school teacher whose students would call her a spinster and fellow teachers a hard ass. But, while presented as a highly sarcastic woman, we also see in her younger self (played by Annie Rose Buckley) a child who saw the downfall of her family, including her father.
But, from that terrible time in Pamela’s life came the inspiration for Mary Poppins, a tale about a woman who may not have saved her from what was going on, but did so much for her life that now she is almost like what a stuffed animal would be for a child. However, with the book published to the world, now one Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) wishes to take that story, put it to film, add music and even a touch of animation, most of which is loathsome to Pamela.
However, with money low and Travers growing tired of Disney’s 20-year pursuit, she does everything she can to convince him to break his promise to his girls, and as she goes through the motions she reflects on what inspired Mary Poppins. Be it her father (played by Colin Farrell) or her aunt Ellie (played by Rachel Griffiths), we see what trauma and difficulties that led to the iconic character.
When it comes to praise, the first thing I must note is that the story mixes the pre-production part of making the movie Mary Poppins well with establishing what inspired the book. This is thanks to a combination of Buckley and Farrell setting up the type of foundation which allows you to eventually emotionally connect to Thompson as the adult version of Pamela Travers. You see, the flashbacks to Pamela’s childhood often are used to explain different parts of the movie, so when it comes to certain aspects, like Mr. Banks being a banker like her dad, this triggers something in her which leads her to reminisce to scenes which often begin to make you feel empathy for the often polarizing Pamela.
Also, I feel there is a need to praise the fact almost every main character is written with their own life, even if they aren’t a recognizable name. For example, we know who Walt Disney is, as well as Pamela Travers because they are the two title characters, but even someone like Paul Giamatti’s character Ralph is given a backstory by being the father to a girl in a wheelchair. And with that, you feel that you are getting a somewhat true slice of what was going on during the times. Which, by the way, during the credits they show pictures of Walt and Pamela, as well as feature a recording session when Pamela was meeting with the writers about the script.
Now, when it comes to critiquing the film, perhaps the only thing worth critiquing is that sometimes I did feel like I wanted to learn more about Walt Disney than Pamela Travers. The reason I say this is mostly because Tom Hanks does seem to, at times, steal a scene or two to the point it does make you imagine what a Walt Disney biopic would look like. Then, to add onto that, though probably fitting for the times, you do get the slightest hint of sexism every now and then. Not strong enough to cause an uproar, but enough, even from Walt Disney, to make you raise an eyebrow.
Overall: Worth Seeing
It is rare for me to see a film and want to read the source material after. However, after seeing Saving Mr. Banks I do feel the desire to read the original book, and watch the Julie Andrews movie in order to fully understand how many of her complaints made sense. Outside of that, I do feel this is a movie worth seeing because every bit of the movie plays up the actors strengths, and backs it up with good writing. Thompson plays Pamela Travers, as a misunderstood woman who hasn’t much but her literary classic, so well that, with Annie Rose Buckley’s help, she pulls off a wonderful performance; Tom Hanks, as always, is a likable fellow who plays a good supporting role in the film; and it is hard to say that one character wasn’t treated like they were a human being, even if we didn’t get a full story on their life. Hence why I am saying it is worth watching. There is nothing really bad about it, and if anything it develops hope to see more about those who took in Disney films, as well as seeing, eventually, a Walt Disney biopic.