The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum

SAVING MR. BANKS (2013) ***

Nearly broke, children’s author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) reluctantly agrees to let Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) turn her beloved children’s book, Mary Poppins; into a movie. She travels to California and pretty much chews the screenwriters a new one every time they try to change the story. Meanwhile, she has constant flashbacks of her days living in the Australian outback with her drunk father (Colin Farrell). After a lot of wheeling, dealing, and schmoozing, Travers finally warms up to Disney and helps pitch in to make the movie.

Saving Mr. Banks is essentially a story about selling out; but selling out while keeping your dignity and principles intact. And while Travers doesn’t want to give her precious Mary Poppins up, once she finally sees that all involved are trying to make the best movie possible, she acquiesces and winds up enjoying the collaborative process. (The scene where she starts dancing and singing along with the music in the writing room is a real winner.) I also liked that that Disney recognizes a kinship with her (he loves Mickey Mouse as much as she loves Mary Poppins); although he never pushes that fact on her.

The constant flashbacks to Travers’ childhood prevent the film from really gaining any traction though. These scenes take up half the film and the constant back and forth gets a bit frustrating at times. Had the flashbacks been pared down to about a 75/25 split, I think it would’ve been much more effective. Colin Farrell does have one or two world class drunk moments in the flashbacks though.

The performances pretty much sell the whole deal. Thompson is excellent, giving one of her best performances as the emotionally guarded Travers. And while Hanks rarely looks like Disney, he captures that “everyone’s favorite uncle” quality that Walt had. I also liked Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the harried Sherman Brothers and Paul Giamatti has a few good moments as Travers’ loyal driver.

Tags: drama, s

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