Given that I had read quite a few reviews of “Saving Mr Banks” I thought I had a pretty clear idea of what I was going to watch – a movie which dealt with how Walt Disney convinced PL Travers to give him the movie rights of her famous novel ‘Mary Poppins’ with Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson portraying these characters respectively. Given that both of them have delivered more than competent performances, Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips [Link to review] more recently, I also anticipated them to have done the same with these roles as well. But I was in for a pleasant surprise.
While the above paragraph is entirely true, the fact remains that most of the reviews forgot to mention about the strength of the plot of the movie itself. The fact that the director John Lee Hancock, used this movie to take us all on a walk down PL Travers’ troubled childhood and how Mary Poppins was a result of the same. Interspersed with her journey to Los Angeles where she is working with Disney’s script writers and song writers for the movie, Travers occasionally slips into memories and musings of her own childhood in Australia.
Colin Farrell, playing Travers Goff, her father, suffers from an alcohol problem and hence is not as good a husband or a father as he would like to be. He however dotes on Helen Goff (PL Travers’ maiden name), his eldest daughter and keeps encouraging her imagination and keeps telling her never to lose the same to the vagaries and harsh realities of life. All of these incidents in her childhood end up in PL Travers coming up with the character of Mr Banks who is modeled on her own father and Mary Poppins as the governess to the Bankses.
It takes a sudden emotional outburst during one of her sittings with the script writers for Walt Disney to figure out that Mary Poppins is more than just another story that she had written, but was based on her own childhood experiences. And the scene in which Walt Disney flies over to London and meets Travers at her home to talk to her and finally try convincing her to give him the rights to make the movie is probably the best example of what wonderful actors both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are.
The movie is almost entirely owned by Emma Thompson who pretty much brings PL Travers’ myriad of emotions alive on screen and the role provides her with enough opportunity to showcase the excesses of acting talent that she possesses. Tom Hanks plays a reasonably extended supporting role at best, but shines through in whatever scene he is present at. He successfully manages to portray the shrewd businessman, showman, and sensitive character that Walt Disney really was.
If not for anything else, watch this bittersweet movie just to enjoy the lovely acting talents of this wonderful duo. Don’t go in expecting too many things from this movie apart from that though.
All images in this post have been sourced from IMDB.