31 March 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

This is the story behind one of the best-loved Disney films of all time; Mary Poppins. The film focuses on the two weeks that Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) spent with P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the woman who wrote the Mary Poppins books, and how he eventually got her to sign over the rights of the story.

First off, you should be warned that P.L. Travers was not the most likeable woman in the world, and she was very,very stubborn. If her books were going to be made into a film, they had to be absolutely right, because Mary Poppins was so close to her heart. We begin the story after 20 years of Walt Disney attempting to make the Mary Poppins film, when Mrs Travers finally agrees to go to L.A. and work with the studio on the film. She finds that the script, the casting, the songs, everything has been worked out before she gets there, and all she has to do is to sign the paperwork, but she won't give in so easily. In the meantime, we are treated to flashbacks from her early life, where we learn more of the anguish that she keeps hidden away from the world. At first, everything seems perfect, but cracks soon begin to appear and parallels between her life and her books can be drawn very neatly.

The film is brilliant storytelling; amusing, joyful, serious and heartbreaking, it has everything you could wish for in terms of substance. The reasons for Mrs Travers's haughty exterior is slowly revealed, not to us, but to Disney as well. The end result is not what really matters, as we know what happens, but how the characters get there is the most interesting part.

The acting from out two protagonists is flawless. Emma Thompson's ability as an actress is astounding, because even though the character is so prickly, we can see there is something lying under all of that, and we warm to her very quickly. Tom Hanks had the very difficult task of playing someone that everyone thinks differently about, but somehow he just made the man completely human, with the same flaws and the same understanding that we all would have. There is absolutely no bias here with either of the characters, and that is something quite difficult to do with people that are so well-known. We also had some great acting from the liked of Paul Giamatti, Ruth Wilson and Colin Farrell, who made the back-story and the offshoots so emotional.

All in all, this is a terrific film which really gives us an excellent taste of both Walt Disney and P.L. Travers as they were in that time. Saving Mr Banks is right up there with the wonderful portrayal of J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, and it is a heart-warming and entertaining story. It seems like real-life stories are making their way into the limelight now, and I sincerely hope they stay there when it comes to stories like this one.

10 out of 10, I would watch it again in a heartbeat.