Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

Tonight I screened Saving Mr. Banks, starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.

PL Travers (Thompson) was an Australian author who had suffered a difficult childhood at the hands of her drunken father and depressed mother. It was her imagination that got her through it and led her to eventually write Mary Poppins, which achieved great success.

Walt Disney (Hanks), a legendary Missouri-born entrepreneur, of course created the Happiest Place on Earth™. After his daughter, Diane, fell in love with the book Mary Poppins, he promised her someday he would turn it into a movie. It took him 20 years, but he kept that promise.

This film tells that story in flashbacks to Travers' childhood (which can be quite disturbing) and throughout the process of convincing her to sell the rights to Disney. The two leads couldn't be better in their roles, Hanks capturing every mannerism Disney was known for; Thompson a hard shell of a woman with a heartbreaking past bubbling underneath. Sweet moments of humor, like a spoonful of sugar, help this "medicine" go down.

Travers really defined the Hollywood term "development hell" and took issue with just about every song, design and element proposed to her by the "Americans." It can't have been easy for the writer and songwriters to navigate, but obviously, in the end everyone got a classic.

The film is much more dark than I expected it to be, and I found myself crying at least four times.

That said, the writing is not emotionally manipulative or too far from the truth at any time. In fact, reading through this article, it comes pretty close. The real footage of the film and also the final credits (which hold real surprises) were a nice touch.

I enjoyed the story, and would recommend it for adults, but not for children due to the disturbing flashback sequences.


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