Wednesday 2 April 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

With Disney's Frozen taking home two Oscars recently and generally being hailed as Disney’s second coming, there has been one film that has been criminally overlooked. That film is Saving Mr. Banks. On its surface it's simply a dramatisation about the creation of the 1964 film Marry Poppins, and while that is correct, Saving Mr. Banks is not only one of the best films of 2013, but also probably the best live action film Disney has made in quite a long time.

Directed by John Lee Hancock and starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks is a film of two parts, On one side the film covers Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) efforts to convince author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let Walt Disney Studios adapt her Marry Poppins character into a feature film. The other side of the film deals with the troubled and secretive past of P.L. Travers, and her both loving and turbulent relationship with her father. Both sides to the story are intertwined throughout, and both pull at the heartstrings in every way you can imagine.

Once Travers agrees to work with Walt Disney on bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen, he soon finds out that she's not easy to work with. From rejecting the idea of any animated content in the film, concerns about certain musical numbers to an overall dispute about the tone of the film, she's against it completely. This head-to-head dynamic between Travers and Disney is fantastic to watch play out, especially since they both have good intentions when it comes to adapting the character. From how softly Hank plays Disney; a man who insists that his employees simply call him Walt, to the bristly yet brilliant portrayal of Travers by Thompson, there are multiple scenes in the film that are just a masterclass of acting. Both Hanks and Thompson have nailed these characters, and to see these personalities clash is just fantastic. However, while that part of the story is interesting, insightful and uplifting the other side to Saving Mr. Banks, the element that cover Travers' history, is near heart-breaking. Her father, though loving, was an alcoholic, and during the course of flashbacks we slowly see her family fall to pieces, ultimately leading to her mother taking a shocking course of action. This is where Saving Mr. Banks will punch you right in your heart, only to lift you up later on.

By the way, as a quick note I'd also like to say that the standout performance here is from Colin Farrell, who plays P.L. Travers' father. No seriously, he's fantastic here, and absolutely should have been at least nominated for an Oscar.

While some of the film is not historically accurate, at least how the film depicts Travers somewhat accepting the Marry Poppins film, it's still a wonderful and moving insight not only into her working relationship with Walt Disney, but also the events in her life that directly led to the creation of the character Marry Poppins. The character was born from a brutally damaged relationship she had with her father, and the impact of this can be seen almost painfully so in Thompson. However, much like how Travers demands that “Mr. Banks must be saved” in Marry Poppins, a need for redemption that stretches back to her father, by the end of the film it is Travers who is saved, if even slightly so. It's just such a wonderfully moving and ultimately uplifting story that it really needs to be seen by all, regardless of your interest in Mary Poppins or lack thereof.

Bundled along with Saving Mr. Banks are the extras. While not a lot, the Blu-Ray does contain some nice content.

Deleted scenes: Totalling just over 7 minutes, the three deleted scenes are pretty insightful, and include a small moment between Disney and Travers after her decision to leave the project.

“Let's Go Fly a Kite”: Veteran composer Richard Sherman plays as the cast sing the song Let's Go Fly a Kite from Mary Poppins on the last day of filming.

The Walt Disney Studios: From Poppins To The Present: A lovely if short documentary that covers the behind-the-scenes of the original Mary Poppins film up until today. In interviewing some children of the production staff who worked on the classic 1964 film and composer Richard Sherman, director John Lee Hancock aims to give some further background and context to Saving Mr. Banks.

Though flimsy on the extras, Saving Mr. Banks is a lovely film, and one that like the best Disney films can be enjoyed by just about everyone. With enough historical accuracy to satisfy the Disney enthusiast, and enough moving and uplifting moments to melt the heart of any viewer, Saving Mr. Banks is the Disney masterpiece people should be focusing on right now.

Saving Mr. Banks is superfragilisticexpialidocious and nabs a 5/5, []

Denis Murphy

Saving Mr. Banks at CeX

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