Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks

Probably one of the best films of last year, Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) struggle to gain the film rights to the Mary Poppins novels by author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson). From director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), comes his next heartfelt true tale of the making of one of history's most beloved classics.

Ever since the film was announced last year, I was excited to see how it turned out. I have always loved the Mary Poppins film, it being one of my childhood favorites, and I was curious to see how it was made in the beginning. I had no idea, before I saw the film, that Walt Disney went though such a struggle in order to put this on the big screen. I also had no idea of the immense back-story of the author, P.L. Travers, and how much the film and story was based on her own childhood experiences. Once the film started, I instantly became developed in the tragically beautiful past of the author, and also her struggles to face the reality that has come upon her suddenly. As the story continued, the tale quickly became clearer and clearer as to how much the story of Mary Poppins meant to the author, and also to Disney. In the end, the final product was a beautifully heartfelt story full of emotion, love, and forgiveness.

The cast of the film is one of the main reasons the film is so moving and meaningful. From Tom Hanks' cheery and committed Walt Disney to Emma Thompson's cynical and straight-forward Pamela "P.L." Travers, the cast makes the film what it is: a delightful, but serious true story of one movie's journey toward fame on the big screen. However, the film was not only about the Mary Poppins narrative, but mainly about how P.L Travers' childhood affected the rest of her life. With that, Emma Thompson delivered an amazing performance as a quite cynical woman who only wanted to keep her story faithful to how she imagined it. When Walt Disney, played by the incomparable Tom Hanks, enters Travers' life, her life is turned upside-down as she struggles to let go of her defining past and her masterful work. Tom Hanks performed adequately as Disney, bringing charisma and charm to the cheery businessman. However, unlike some of his other roles, Hanks didn't really sell me on his portrayal of the legendary filmmaker, coming off as a more generic and low-key character with only minor signs of true compassion. Despite that, Hanks again delivers a promising performance with a decent amount of care (and facial hair) to make the character believable. The role that stood out the most for me was probably Travers Goff, played by Colin Farrell, who was Pamela's caring yet troubled father. His defining struggle through raising three children, while maintaining a bank job and suffering from alcohol addiction, was a major theme and influence in how P.L. Travers grew up. Colin Farrell, who I haven't see since the decent remake of Total Recall, gave off a compassionate fatherly role as he offered undying love for his daughters, but faced an underlining problem of alcohol addiction. Once this problem became apparent to his family, Pamela's life was changed forever, her beliefs and decisions altered by her defining childhood. Farrell's role was very important to the story, I think, because it offered the audience a look into Travers' past and how her experiences had made her so cynical as an adult. The rest of the cast, from the Sherman brothers of music (B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) to Paul Giamatti's endearing chauffeur, were cheery and high-spirited enough to make the film loving and unforgettable.

The music of the film, utilizing tidbits from Mary Poppins and also some new creations from composer Thomas Newman, was the underlining beauty of the final work. Hearing a piece of "Chim Chim Cher-ee", accompanied by a peaceful narration by Colin Farrell, starts off the film with a loving and sympathetic tone that brings back the childhood memories of a classic film. I think the film had a wonderful score, implementing soft and loving music with fantastic performances of classic Poppins songs by the cast.

With the time period in the film being the early 60's, the film successfully displayed elements of the period through many different ways. From old cars to old recording tapes to old Disneyland (which hasn't changed much by the looks of it), the film did an excellent job at transporting us to 60's Hollywood, and even back to 1906 Australia. I have always liked period films, like American Hustle and Les Misérables, that spin well-written plots into detailed and elaborate settings of certain time periods. This film does a good job at setting up their 60's environment by filling it with period cars and attire, and also redesigning popular modern-day places, like Grauman's Chinese Theatre, to the 60's look. This aspect of the film was amazingly done, and made the film look authentic and visually pleasing.

Overall, the film was a great tribute to Disney's legacy and P.L. Travers' amazing works. It was definitely one of the great films of 2013, and I'm glad I finally got to see it. The film had an excellent cast, a heartfelt story, and a delightful score that will bring you back to your childhood.

I gave the film an 8 out of 10 because of its wonderful cast of brilliant stars, its underlining plot that defines forgiveness and redemption, and its great homage to one of P.L. Travers' and Walt Disney's greatest and most unforgettable creations ever put to print and screen.       


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