I walked out of Saving Mr. Banks feeling all warm and fuzzy with a lump in my throat. It’s a delightfully charming film but also gave me an emotional gulp to swallow. I had no idea what to expect from it and you wouldn’t know either. This only means we are in a safe spot to be surprised by the heart of this film.
The film is about the making of Mary Poppins and the difficult writing process, which had P.L. Travers and Walt Disney at loggerheads. This is not what the film is about; it is just the beginning of a beautiful partnership. There is a parallel flashback of Travers’ childhood, which could have been another film, but when meshed with the narrative of Mary Poppins’ pre-production along with its allusions to the story of Mary Poppins itself, it soars.
Emma Thompson gives one hell of a performance. She is lovely and endearing, and makes a truly exquisite Mrs. Travers (as she likes to be addressed). The author of Mary Poppins is a cynical woman, to put it mildly. She sits on a plane and her wish is that the plane crashes, which is exactly the opposite of what anyone would think, let alone wish, when they board one. It’s surprising that this is the same person who wrote something as adorable as Mary Poppins. You’d think the partnership with Disney would have been a cakewalk but it’s not. Tom Hanks is the perfect person to play Disney and does not miss a single beat. I don’t care how he was in reality but his public image is wonderfully embodied by him.
These are the two obvious performances that I loved but the one performance that surprised me and gave this film the emotional root is Colin Farrell. I had no clue he was in the movie, to be honest. Farrell has never been an actor that I have strongly admired. The only film that I thought he was memorable in was perhaps Minority Report (2002). Then there was In Bruges (2008), which wasn’t bad either. He will not be given any accolades for this performance since Thompson and Hanks would take the limelight. He performs with Annie Rose Buckley, who plays the young Travers. He lovingly calls her Ginty. At one point he tells her “Money money money, don’t you buy into it Ginty”. This performance broke my heart. Thankfully, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks were there to patch it right up.
Richard and Robert Sherman, the ones who lent their musical talents to Mary Poppins, are played by Jason Schwartzmann and B.J. Novak. They are so perfectly morphed into character that you could easily ignore their unerring portrayals. The scene with Travers listening to a song and rubbishing it. Or when she unexpectedly starts tapping her foot to Let’s Go Fly A Kite. All the supporting performers, including Bradley Whitford and Paul Giamatti, hold fort.
There are not many live-action Disney movies that rise above the mediocre. You might argue that Old Yeller (1957) isn’t the greatest movie ever made but it doesn’t matter. The recent Enchanted (2007) or Miracle (2004) didn’t win major awards either but I could watch them again and again, just because they are so good. Even when they are mediocre, they are so wonderfully mediocre that the spoonsful of sugar are enough to let the medicine of critique go way down. Sure, this film is way too Disney and there is a lot of fluff. It only depends whether you want this medicine to go down or not.
Saving Mr. Banks and Mary Poppins will make a fantastic double-bill in the future. Both make the other film look good. Saving Mr. Banks is a wonderful film. It has an old world charm to it. It’s a movie about movies and what you feel at the movies. For that alone, I couldn’t help but love it. I’m pretty sure you will be charmed by this film. Or at least you will come out with one of the songs from Mary Poppins in your head. Humming one would not be a bad idea. This is one kite you must fly and send it soaring. Up through the atmosphere. Up where the air is clear. Oh let’s go fly a kite!view less