This is the topic of the latest Disney released live action feature, Saving Mr. Banks, a film inspired by the infamous butting of heads between the book’s author P.L. Travers and Walt Disney (Ya’ll know who he is), over how the film ought to be brought to the screen.
Truth be told, the main reason I got so excited about this movie is because I’ve always wanted to see a Disney biopic, a character study that, while it would show him as the revolutionary he was, would also delve into his numerous vices. So, you could probably imagine my disappointment when I found out that this story would be more focused on Travers. However, I was still excited for it, and having finally seen it, I have a lot to say.
The year is 1961, and author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) is flying to Los Angeles to meet with the filmmakers at Walt Disney Pictures, who are eager to adapt her stories to the big screen, especially Walt himself (Tom Hanks), wanting to live up to a promise he made to his daughter many years ago. However, during the affair, Travers is not so subtly displeased over many of the decisions the team makes, fearing what the Disney name stands for, and that these characters that are so dear to her will be used for the worse.
Now, if that in any way indicated that I don’t like this movie, let me just say that I actually do. True, I don’t really enjoy this movie as a history lesson, but as sort of a “What if?” type of film, I don’t mind it too much. A lot of my enjoyment comes from the creative process in the film. It certainly does convey very well how stubborn Travers was, especially when she’s deliberately testing the patience of everyone involved, but they also do a good job of humanizing her as well, and explaining why the stories mean so much to her.
Director John Lee Hancock may pile on the sweetness a little too thick at times, but still manages to craft some visually pleasing sweetness. I particularly loved the production design and the costumes provided for the film, which excellently immerse the viewer into the time and place of the events, and the score by Thomas Newman is quite wonderful stuff, mixing in poignant uses of the Sherman Brothers’ legendary music from Mary Poppins.
What really grabs me about Saving Mr. Banks is the cast. These actors are all exquisite to the tiniest detail. Of the supporting players, Colin Farrell (while a touch melodramatic) is very tender playing a man whose behavior and fantastical imagination puts him at odds with the challenges of the real world, Paul Giamatti is humorous and heartfelt as Travers’ personal driver Ralph, and Schwartzman and Novak definitely nail their interpretations of the Sherman Brothers. Even smaller performances from Ruth Wilson and Rachel Griffiths make an impact.
Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious? Not quite, and I can understand if someone doesn’t like this movie for the over-sweetness, but this is a spoonful of sugar I don’t mind that much. Saving Mr. Banks, despite whatever obvious issues it may have, still remains a likable, heartfelt, and beautifully made movie. Certainly not one of the year’s best, but good nonetheless.
Now, I hope they’ll finally make the Disney biopic I want to see in the future. Something in the vein of Lincoln, maybe? Make it happen, Hollywood!
**** / *****