Saving Mr. Banks Review: A comedy-drama with a spoonful of sugar
From the studio that brought you Mary Poppins,
Disney has released a biopic about the author of the original novels, P.L Travers. Saving Mr. Banks
is the story of her battles with Walt Disney, who wants the rights to the film adaptation, in a dramatic comedy that is both witty and sentimental.
Mrs. Pamela P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) has been hounded by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and the Disney Corporation for 20 years for the film rights to her book and she has refused constantly. But by 1961, she has run out of money and agrees to go to Los Angeles for two weeks to work with the writing team to see if a deal can be struck. Her conditions are that the film cannot be animated, there are no songs and she has final script approval. Travers quickly clashes with creative team and Walt himself, a man who promised his daughters he would adapt the book.
As this is going on Travers reflects on her childhood in rural Australia, with her father (Colin Farrell), a loving man who feeds his daughter's imagination, but an alcoholic with probable depression and how these events influenced her writing.
Saving Mr. Banks
is a movie armed with excellent screenplay and a top notch cast. As well as the likes of Thompson, Hanks and Farrell, Saving Mr. Banks
also features Bradley Whittaker, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Giamatti, B.J. Novak and Ruth Wilson. They all offer strong performances and have given us very well defined characters. Thompson dominates as Travers, a no nonsense woman with poor social skills and a British Bulldog stubbornness/determination and injects a deadpan humor with the witty lines she was given. Thompson also brings out the emotion, the serious aspects of the character, as the shadows of her past still linger over her.
One of the big themes of the movie is the writing process, both the individual, personal aspect and the collaborative effect of a film adaptation. Saving Mr. Banks
shows that many writers use they personal experience and life and become a part of the author. It is hard for writers to let go and particularly for Travers, as she has so much invested in Mary Poppins, so much of herself in it. Her books allowed her to have some wish fulfilment.
The screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, director John Lee Hancock and editor Mark Livoisi worked brilliant to blending the story of Travers butting heads with Disney's creative team and her backstory about her childhood influencing her writing. There are plenty of transitions, allowing Hancock to have some fancy pans. One particular noticeable sequence is when the creative team performs one of the songs and Travers has a flashback. The film slowly reveals how Travers childhood and her father became a part of her writing, used in the books and become a part of the themes of her books and philosophies. This is particularly the case with her parents and their inabilities to cope, both Travers' father's alcoholism and mother's inability to cope with the stress, leading to her theme of responsibility. For a movie that is about the writing process, Saving Mr. Banks
never really shows about the writing process that Travers goes through, but explores the writing process of adapting a work, from one medium to another.
The final theme and a big part of the comedy comes from the clashes of cultures and personalities. Travers is a brash personality with formal, conservative approach and lives a modest lifestyle in London and a rustic life in Australia. This in comparison to the overtly friendly American and their glamor and excess, from the fashion to the food, particularly sweet treats and the hard sell from Disney in Travers' hotel room.
Saving Mr. Banks
has a excellent screenplay, solid direction and balances the comedy dramatic portions extremely well. The film makes sure there is plenty of sentiment, particularly with the score by Thomas Newman. It is a safe movie, but still a pleasing experience. It is perfect if you are a fan of Mary Poppins
and you will have the songs stuck in your head.