Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

13b45-saving_mr-_banks_theatrical_posterThe name Disney is universal, and if you ask people if they ever saw Mary Poppins as a kid they will probably give you a nod and break out in song. Mr. Banks is the film about the film, and it stars Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, the difficult and complex author of the source novel. She is balanced out by Tom Hanks, who takes on the role of the larger than life Walt Disney. 

The year is 1961 and for 20 years now he has been prodding Mrs. Travers for the rights to her work. Each and every time she refused him, but now the royalties are only trickling in and so she reluctantly agrees to head to Los Angeles, very sure the endeavor will fail. She is a difficult lady and very hard to please whether it is the airplane, her talkative personal driver, the gifts in her hotel suite, and most of all her literary creation. She won’t have her Mary Poppins frolicking about and there will be no songs, no animation, and certainly no Dick Van Dyke. Disney is willing to make concession after concession in order to bring the story to life since it is very dear to not only him but his daughters as well. Mrs. Travers begins work with the Sherman Brothers and the screenwriter, but she is constantly displeased and calling for changes. It seems that nothing will satisfy her. Though some breakthroughs are made and Disney continues to be patient, Travers is distraught to learn there are to be animated Penguins. Just like that, she heads back to England.

However, that is only one-half of the storyline. The other occurs in flashbacks scattered throughout the film. Travers was a little girl in Australia with a playful father who was a banker. He encouraged her to never stop dreaming, but he also struggled with alcoholism. His problems cause all sorts of problems for his wife, for his bank, and most definitely his girls. Only later would Helen Goff, aka P.L. Travers, realize the impact of what had happened. She watched her mother nearly commit suicide, and she saw her father die because there was no thing and no one to save him. 

Back in the present, Walt Disney finally figures out a little more about Mrs. Travers, and he personally travels to England to talk it out with her. They have a heart to heart, and he assures her that Mary Poppins is not only hers but his and many others, who have enjoyed the magic and hope that came off the page. The fact that Mary came to save Mr. Banks gives comfort to her own tragic story, and with this realized the Mary Poppins film became a reality that numerous fans have enjoyed for nearly 50 years now. 

This film is made enjoyable by the back and forth of Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. Thompson is especially good in her initially prickly but then softhearted portrayal of P.L Travers. Ralph the kindly driver and Colin Farrel as Travers Goff were also integral pieces of the film. The nostalgia and period look that is created of the 1960s is also pleasant to view. Initially, I did not care much for the flashbacks that fill the entire film, but I will concede that they are important to understanding the inner workings of P.L. Travers. All in all, this is a great sentimental picture that should leave us with a smile on our faces and a desire to sing some ditties like “Chim Chim Cheree.”

3.5/5 Stars

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