Saving Mr. Banks – Movie Review


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.

TomHanksWhile 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.

EmmaThompsonThe 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.


13 thoughts on “Saving Mr. Banks – Movie Review

  1. Honestly, the kind of film that makes me wonder about people’s tastes. You are far from the only one, so don’t consider this an attack. The most accurate reviews of this film are calling it out for what it is: an unchallenging, gooey, sentimental bore. It’s pretty awful. But the sight of Mickey Mouse wooing a socially inept spinster is making an inordinate amount of audience members weep with joy. There are so many worthy films to appreciate at this time of year—but “Saving Mr. Banks” is one of the ones that should be dismissed. And not that the Academy always gets it right, but thankfully Oscar did just that. ML

    • @Mark, I have this issue where I cannot completely diss a movie unless it was something that didn’t appeal to me in any form or fashion. Your point regarding this movie being a gooey, sentimental one is well taken and unanimously agreed upon, but then I didn’t compare it any of the other awesome movies out there at this time of the year in any case. On a standalone basis, this movie gave me more than what I anticipated going into it. For one, I wasn’t even aware of the story behind Mary Poppins (maybe that was because that movie is not quite as iconic back here in India), and you simply cannot deny the power packed performance of Emma Thmopson in this movie, can you.

      That being said, the truth remains that I will rarely, if ever completely dislike a movie in its entirety. I probably am just a little too kind to do that. Maybe it is a problem, but that’s just how it is 🙂

      In any case, your comments on this movie, and on all my reviews in general are well appreciated. Thanks for taking the time out, reading the reviews and leaving behind your thoughts. Truly appreciate it 🙂

      • Jairam, You are obviously a courteous and intelligent individual, and certainly you are allowed to be moved any way you want by the film in question. But I do occasionally(maybe often is more accurate)press viewers to analyze their tastes. Because, in all candor, audiences tend to go for the easy and avoid the challenging. This film is simply intellectually lazy. It is not worthy of much analysis or attention. The flashback scenes are puerile. And, despite the presence of world-class actors, the performances are uninspired and dull. Hanks is one-note, Farrell doesn’t behave like a real person, Giamatti is a fawning and obvious fictional creation, and Thompson(one of my favorite film actresses, btw)is a ridiculous English caricature. So, I will deny what you are calling the power of her performance—I’ve seen easily a dozen more worthy this past year, and most of them received no Oscar recognition either. So, I’m more than pleased that Ms. Thompson was bypassed this time around, as well. All due respect, and looking forward to your continued ramblings! ML

      • @Mark, point well taken, for someone who watches so many movies and tries to appreciate the fine art and craft of movie making, my tastes obviously should be more refined and sophisticated. But then, like I mentioned before, the fact that some of the better movies of the year haven’t found their way to Indian screens yet mean that I am yet to catch up with movies like American Hustle, Her, Blue Jasmine, 12 Years a slave, etc and that’s probably why I found Thompson’s performance good in this one.

        For sure, I will continue to ramble, and thank you in advance for your continued patronage of my posts 🙂

  2. Good review. As a standalone piece of fiction, this is good.

    As a supposed account of a real event, it leaves some things to be desired. Because it gets almost everything wrong. 😉

    • @jjames36, well, yes, it was only after watching the movie, reading other reviews and then reading up on the actual events that I figured out that the movie had taken more than a little leeway with what actually happened. That being said, I kind of liked the movie, at least the way in which the director chose to flit between Travers’ past and present and also Emma Thompson’s power-packed performance as well.

      • Thompson’s performance is extraordinary. I thought some of the flashbacks a bit manipulative, but on balance I still think them effective.

      • @jjames36, agree with you, in fact my opinion was most of the flashbacks were manipulative and served to further our sympathies for Travers and her holding on to the “Mary Poppins” character so close to her heart, but overall I think the movie worked for me.

  3. The movie seems kind of boring. There haven’t been too many favorable reviews for this one
    As wonderful as Emma Thompson was she couldn’t save the movie..

    and no wonder it didn’t get picked for the Academy Awards.

    • @pixie, as for the Academy Award nominations themselves, I am not going to comment on them as I have read too many articles discussing the various inherent biases that the members of the Motion Picture Academy themselves have. But then, to say something like Emma Thompson couldn’t save the movie purely based on reviews without even having watched it seems a little unfair to me. And in any case, my own personal experience has been that there have been more than quite a few movies which I have personally liked even though the rest of the world panned them unilaterally or even the other way around, I have found more than quite a few popular and well loved movies boring. However, in the case of Saving Mr. Banks, I personally enjoyed the movie and Emma Thompson’s performance quite a bit. To each his own I guess.

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