After Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks is now Saving Mr. Banks, taking on the role of Walt Disney – who desperately attempts to persuade British author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to pass over the rights to her popular children’s novel Mary Poppins, to allow the Hollywood studio to bring it to the big screen. The entrepreneur faces quite an uphill battle on his hands however, as she remains precious and protective over her writing, as she reflects over a tumultuous youth, and a relationship with her own father (Colin Farrell) that gives Mary Poppins something of a personal touch, thus making it difficult to share with others.
Saving Mr. Banks is an overtly elaborate, cinematic film, but in this instance it reserves every right to be, as it’s playing on the notion of classic cinema, and though it may seem to idealise real life, that’s ultimately the point. The sentimentality is poignant too, and although initially the flashbacks to Travers childhood seem corny and superfluous, by the end they prove to be the most essential aspect – bringing a clarity and grander meaning to this story, growing increasingly emotional as we reach the finale. Talking of emotional, Thompson turns in a sincere and moving performance, playing a complex character who must let go off her past.
The picture does feel a little self-indulgent at times, in a sense that Disney are blowing their own trumpet, coming out of proceedings in a rather good light. While in the meantime, Travers, sorry Mrs. Travers, is painted out very negatively early on, acting almost like a pantomime villain. Her unceremonious Britishness is glorified for comic effect, though the balance is evened out somewhat, as her American counterparts are overly happy and fanciful. Nonetheless, there is a very congenial atmosphere to this, and a composure brought about from us knowing that despite the author’s sincere apprehensions about the potential adaptation, we know fully well it eventually materialises, and that eventually she has to compromise on her bullish position and allow for it to include animated interludes, and be the musical she was so against. In many films you live for the ending, but in Saving Mr. Banks not only do we know how it will conclude, but we know how great and iconic a film Mary Poppings became to be.
Much like the original 1964 feature itself, Lee Hancock has provided a worthy homage to Mary Poppins, in a picture that, though somewhat fluffy, is exactly what’d you hope such a film to be, as one that is easy to indulge in, and will help refresh your love for one of the most illustrious movies ever made. However it is a real shame that we don’t hear Travers thoughts after seeing the finished product, because for all of her incessant moaning during pre-production, for a bitter woman who strives for perfection, one would quite like to hear what she has to say about Dick Van Dyke’s English accent.