"Saving Mr. Banks" charmingly nostalgic
I went to see "Saving Mr. Banks" Sunday afternoon. Mary Poppins is one of my favorite childhood movies, so I had big expectations for this film.
The film is based on the true story of how the story of Mary Poppins went from children's books to the big screen. Award-winning Emma Thompson plays PL Travers, the cantankerous author of the children's book series. Tom Hanks masterfully plays Walt Disney, who has been hounding Travers for twenty years to sell the film rights to him.
The movie flashes back and forth to the time when the author grew up in Australia. Her father, played by Collin Farrell, lost his job and moved them to a very remote part of Australia, promising it would be a big adventure. Travers' mother, played by newcomer Ruth Wilson, is less certain, but is devoted her her husband and follows him with three young girls in tow.
The film takes the viewer on a winding path through the descent of Mr. Goff through his alcoholism and mood swings. His eldest daughter, nicknamed Ginty, adores her father and swears she wants to be just like him, much to the sadness of the audience. She tries everything to please him, which becomes harder to do as he sinks further into his whiskey.
PL Travers' reminisces about her childhood throughout the film as she wages an internal battle with herself about selling her story and an exterior battle with Disney and his employees. She is deliberately difficult, wondering how far she can push Disney before the deal is off. In one comical scene, Travers' states that she is off the color red and that there be no red at all in the film.
Travers butts heads with Disney's writing and choreography team throughout the film, to the delight of the audience. BJ Novak, best known as Ryan Howard on The Office, is a standout in the film - the viewer can completely empathize with his frustrations.
A surprising friendship develops between Travers and her driver Ralph, played by Paul Giamatti. Ralph is all sunny and bubbly, which plays well off Travers' dour personality. Over the course of the film, they come to understand each other and Travers declares Ralph "her favorite American."
The viewer could be upset with Travers' negativity but Thompson is a wonder at showing the softer side of Travers and the reasoning behind her immovable demands. The story has a surprising twist which will give the audience a new understanding behind the story of Mary Poppins.
Overall, while this film might be a bit over the heads of young viewers, anyone who has ever seen Mary Poppins will love this film. "Saving Mr. Banks" is both whimsical and dramatic. It is cinema gold.