Saving Mr Banks (2013) Directed by John Lee Hancock. With Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Kathy Baker and Bradley Whitford.
Saving Mr Banks is the story behind the story of the pre-production of the 1964 classic Disney film, Mary Poppins, starring Emma Thompson as P.L Travers, the author of the famous series of books. Assuming most people aren’t massive Mary Poppins fans, that description alone probably wouldn’t do much to tempt inside, but read on, for like Mary Poppins herself, this is a film with a sprinkling of magic up its sleeve.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, best known for the ‘The Blind Side’, the film is split into two overlapping narratives tracing the history of P.L Travers back to her Australian roots, and her time negotiating with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) over the rights to make her books into a film.
For the first half of the film, the jumping back and forth in time does seem a little jarring. Mostly because the scenes between Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are so captivating, and so brilliantly done, that it’s initially hard to have patience with a back story that is, in the end, crucial in resonating the emotional climax of the film.
Although the film is very well directed, it is the brilliantly realised performances from an excellent cast, working with a diamond of a script from Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, that makes it truly sing. Emma Thompson is once again a wonder to behold, playing the stiff upper lipped Travers with relish and biting wit. Countering her is an excellent Tom Hanks as a warm-hearted Walt Disney, treating his quest to gain control of the rights to Mary Poppins in the same way you might engage a romantic pursuit.
The sight of two class acts like Thompson and Hanks playing characters from distinctly different worlds, going head-to-head, is utterly absorbing. It also offers a fascinating insight into a film that has lit up childhoods the world over. 4/5
LOVED this movie. Great review!
Thank you, and yes, I share your love.
This may not be AS awful as “The Blind Side”…but it’s still awful. I needed an insulin shot after watching both. ML
That’s an interesting response. Apart from anything else, I thought Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks were absolutely superb. I haven’t seen ‘The Blind Side’, so the comparison is a little lost on me.
Tom Hanks gave one of the best performances of his career last year in “Captain Phillips”, but his work as Walt Disney was overacted and phony. Thompson, a wonderful actress, did her best with this silly English caricature, but my real rancor lies with those syrupy, ridiculous flashbacks to her the character’s childhood. A waste of Colin Farrell…another immense talent. Between this and “The Blind Side”, I know I can safely look to director John Lee Hancock for how things most likely DIDN’T happen. Obviously, you feel differently about “Banks”, but I offer the contrarian view. ML
Thank you, Mark. It’s always good to hear an opposing view. I take your point about the flashbacks. In the end, they played an important role in the overall narrative, but they were nowhere near as engaging as the scenes with Thompson and Hanks. I have to stick up for Hanks, though. I thought he was tremendous, as always.
Tremendous…as always? That would imply that you’ve never seen “Cloud Atlas” or “The Bonfire of the Vanities”. ML
Well, if we’re in the mood to nitpick at every word, then so be it. I was speaking in general terms, if that helps. Still, calling his performance in Saving Mr Banks ‘phony’ and ‘overacted’ is way wide of the mark, in my opinion. Hey-ho though, we both loved Blue Ruin (2014).